Thursday, 9 October 2008

Finding my way around the New Literacy Studies (1)

What is New Literacy Studies (NLS)? How does it map onto existing academic disciplines?

Twenty years ago Becher (1989) argued that disciplines have both a cognitive and a social orientation. So, a discipline is about particular ideas or issues and it also exists in and through the network of individuals based in departments, publishing in and reading specific journals (Literacy?, Discourse?), participating in particular conferences or strands in conferences (examples?).

It sounds as if NLS constitutes a discipline (some might prefer the term 'field') that straddles a range of other disciplines and sub-disciplines:

  • education
  • cultural studies (esp. digital culture - user-generated content, fandom, reception analysis)
  • social history (particular emphasis on working-class and/or ethnic minority experiences?)
  • sociology
  • ethnography
  • linguistics (esp. sociolinguistics, discourse analysis, CDA?)
Let's see if I can work out where the course team sit (simplistic I know) from what they've written so far:
  • JD's take on it seems to overlap strongly with cultural studies - esp. the strand interested in digital culture
  • KP's take looks to have more in common with social history, ethnography - cultural studies too though
  • JM's looks like a combo of education (comments on digital divide and class suggesting strong interest in social inclusion agenda) and cultural studies.

Becher, T. (1989) Academic Tribes and Territories: Intellectual Inquiry and the Cultures of the Disciplines. Milton Keynes: SRHE and OUP.

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