By Sunil Agnihotri
The amount of information available to internet users is growing exponentially every day. In every form imaginable, including text, images, audio and video, among others, users are inundated with a plethora of data, information and knowledge at an alarming rate. The technology available allows for anyone with a basic computer to make significant contributions online, resulting in new content and growing connections to evolving online communities.
Along with the growing amount of creative content and knowledge available across the internet, there is, unfortunately, a growing amount of misinformation, which can travel quickly. The onus is on the individual navigating online to decipher the good information from the bad. Individuals must also be aware of what tools are available to find the information they need and also must be willing to apply “crap detection” methods (Rheingold, 2009) to avoid misinformation.
In parallel with the growing number of content, web technology and communication tools are evolving daily. New methods of communication and information sharing are introduced, building off of familiar tools, but encompassing new rules and norms for users to follow. The world has seen information move from newspapers and television to multi-media platforms such as social media applications and mobile devices. Once an individual is cognizant of the fact that there is a lot of bad information, they now have to learn how to use right tool for the right situation. This is part of the digital literacy people require to not only find and share information, but also to contribute their own knowledge and experiences. Educating new and existing web technology users will be critical as online activity is becoming increasingly important for the economy, civic engagement and academia.
A popular activity that requires a high level of digital literacy are fantasy league sports, which has become a staple for hockey fans. The premise of fantasy league is simple: participants join a league and assemble a team consisting of NHL players from various teams, to compete against other participants. Rules vary from league to league, and be customized using one of the many fantasy league websites. Participants typically organize a draft to take turns selecting players, and have the option of adjusting their roster throughout the season. Points are awarded differently depending on the leagues rules, but typically these leagues use statistics captured by the NHL such as goals, assists, hits and penalty minutes, among others. Teams can either go head-to-head each week or compete for the most points by the end of the season. Fans must rely on their knowledge of the game and players, as well as the information available across endless sources. Fantasy league is a thriving, billion-dollar industry (Clapham, 2012) with millions of users and a growing number of websites, mobile applications and publications to meet the demand. Participating in a fantasy league drastically changes the fans experience with professional sports (Serazio, 2008). Fans expand their awareness of other teams and players outside of their list of personal favorites. This, of course, is great news for the NHL as games that would otherwise draw little interest from outside their own markets, now have millions of fantasy league participants following every minute of the game.
Rather than being passive observers, fantasy league participants are forced to be actively engaged (Halverson & Halverson, 2008). Across a multitude of sources, whether it be websites, television/radio shows, magazine, or word-of-mouth, fans have to be cognizant and critical of the information available for fantasy league success. Their method of navigating the information develops over time, but users are exposed to the misleading information that has become all too readily available. Over time, fans can develop their own system of deciphering information and their rationale for applying what they find. The tools needed for success in fantasy league also become important, as fans must acquire some understanding of what is available and what tools work for them. For example, social media software and mobile applications are needed for quick access to information, but fans must know how to use it effectively to garner success.
The ability to understand the tools available, navigate across numerous sources, gather information for decision-making and to develop knowledge, are all critical tools for hockey fans participating in fantasy leagues. It’s these skills that are also critical for all internet users, as the amount of content available grows and the tools continue to evolve. A basic understanding of what is included in fantasy league and how to be successful could give non-sports fans some insight on what is required when participating online. The good news is, there are a lot of people who already participate in fantasy league. But further research on how well the digital literacy skills from fantasy league participation translate to other facets of the individuals life would need to be done.
Clapham, K. (2012, May 14). Fantasy sports becoming big business as popularity continues to rise. Medill Reports. Retrieved from http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=205473
Halverson E.R. & Halverson R. (2008). Fantasy baseball: The case for competitive fandom. Games and Culture, 3(3/4), p. 286-308.
Price, J. (2007, July 13). Researchers studying fantasy baseball and ‘competitive fandom’. University of Wisconsin-Madison News. Retrieved from http://www.news.wisc.edu/13936
Rheingold, H. (2009, June 30). Crap Detection 101. SF Gate. Retrieved from http://blog.sfgate.com/rheingold/2009/06/30/crap-detection-101/
Serazio, M. (2008). Virtual Sports Consumption, Authentic Brotherhood: The Reality of Fantasy Football. In L.W. Hugenberg, P.M. Haridakis & A.C. Earnheardt (Eds.), Sports Mania: essays on fandom and the media in the 21st century (pp. 229-242). London: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers.