Beyond Data Literacy in Engineering Education

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Samira Khodaei, Mihail Padev, Anas Abdelrazeq, Ingrid Isenhardt


Data literacy is a key ingredient for engineering education [14]. Through digital
transformation, more data are generated in different scientific fields that will be interpreted.
As a highly applicable scientific field, mechanical engineering is predestined to integrate
data literacy into the higher education curriculum [17]. However, current frameworks rarely
consider ethical questions, agency, and media influences to data [2] . As media and data are
closely connected, it is valuable for both literacy framework approaches and researchers
to consider each other and enhance their models from one another. Formally, the German
Media Science Association has addressed current fallacies in educational policies founded
on data literacy frameworks [2]. This contribution aims to incorporate the debate from media
educators into the definition of data literacy. Additionally, other emerging literacy frameworks
will be considered. In our method, a literature review, current literacies will be discussed in
order to introduce the concept of literacy circles. Through this approach, an enhanced data
literacy definition will consider frameworks beyond the computer science and engineering


Data Ethics, Data Literacy


media literacy, data literacy, ethics, interdisciplinary research


Published: 2023-01-24 09:32

Last Updated: 2023-04-27 10:44

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Invited Review Comment #27 Anonymous @ 2023-05-25 02:15

The article tries to make an important case for Engineering Education based on developments in the field of literacy studies, more specifically media literacy and data literacy research. The use of language is consistent in most cases, but some revision is still needed (e.g. lines 24 and 39). Some rephrasing would be welcome in cases of definitions and especially in the abstract. The main argument seems to be that Engineering Education needs a framework for the teaching of data literacies that incorporate ethical and critical dimensions of both citizenship and engineering as a profession. The author borrows from studies in media literacies to make the point, but there is a whole plethora of previous, broader and deeper research and propositions about (data, media and general) literacy made in that direction that was not taken into consideration (examples are given at the end of the review). The basic distinction made in the field between literacies as a set of skills and literacies as social practices influenced by cultural, ideological, ethical and context-specific factors is well developed and connected with different views of what criticism may mean in this field and how it relates to the very skills-practices conundrum. There is also an important body of work on critical data studies that is fundamental to defining what critical data literacies should include. Agency and Ethics, moreover, are poorly defined although clearly relatable to reflexivity and agency in the direction aimed at in the article if better articulated. A well know problem in the field of literacy studies is that of how different metaphors (representing conceptual models) are often proposed (continua, hierarchies, circles, networks, dichotomies and so on) are often invoked, but usually in a less productive and consequential way in methodological terms, for lack of exploitation of the attributes of the metaphors themselves. The metaphor itself provides very limited heuristic advantage if its consequences to the conceptual strategy are taken for granted. Overall, the article makes a fair claim about the need to develop a conceptualization of data literacies that goes beyond a set of skills and incorporates ethical, critical, agential and cross-discipinary dimentions. However, the argument in its present elaboration stage falls short of advancing the claim. Neither of the two research questions made explicit in the article seem to have been effectively covered and most of the justifications and consequences of the claim may be relevant for a conceptualization of data literacies, but go far beyond, and come far before, the media literacy literature considered. As a contribution, I would suggest some of the items on the following list that speak directly to the same issues the author is trying to tackle:


Iliadis, Andrew, e Federica Russo. “Critical data studies: An introduction”. Big Data & Society, vol. 3, no 2,  2016, p. 1–7,

Kalantzis, Mary. “Critical literacies pedagogy”. Literacies, Cambridge University Press, 2012, p. 145–70.

Cope, Bill, e Mary Kalantzis. Multiliteracies : Literacy Learning and the Design of Social Futures. Routledge, 2000.

Data Pop Alliance. Beyond Data Literacy: Reinventing Community Engagement and Empowerment in the Age of Data. Data Pop Alliance, setembro de 2015,

Freire, Paulo, e Donaldo Macedo. Literacy: Reading the Word and the World. 1o ed, Routledge, 2005. (Crossref),

Gee, James Paul. “The New Literacy Studies”. The Routledge Handbook of Literacy Studies, Routledge, 2015,

Gray, Jonathan, et al. “Ways of Seeing Data: Towards a Critical Literacy for Data Visualizations as Research Objects and Research Devices”. Innovative Methods in Media and Communication Research, organizado por Sebastian Kubitschko e Anne Kaun, Palgrave, 2016, p. 227–51.

Pangrazio, Luciana. “Reconceptualising Critical Digital Literacy”. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural Politics of Education, vol. 37, no 2, março de 2016, p. 163–74. (Crossref),

Scribner, Sylvia, e Michael Cole. “Unpacking literacy”. Perspectives on Literacy, organizado por E.R. Kintgen et al., Southern Illinois Press, 1988, p. 57–70,

Street, Brian V. Literacy in theory and practice. Cambridge University Press, 1984.

Thomas, Sue, et al. “Transliteracy: Crossing divides”. First Monday, vol. 12, no 12, dezembro de 2007,

Archer, Margaret Scotford. Being Human the Problem of Agency. Cambridge University Press, 2000. Open WorldCat,

Emirbayer, Mustafa, e Ann Mische. “What Is Agency?” American Journal of Sociology, vol. 103, no 4, janeiro de 1998, p. 962–1023. CrossRef,

Kennedy, Helen, et al. “Data and Agency”. Big Data & Society, vol. 2, no 2, dezembro de 2015. CrossRef,

Peacock, S. E. “How Web Tracking Changes User Agency in the Age of Big Data: The Used User”. Big Data & Society, vol. 1, no 2, julho de 2014. CrossRef,

Reyman, Jessica. “User Data on the Social Web: Authorship, Agency, and Appropriation”. College English, vol. 75, no 5, 2013, p. 513.