Wednesday, 15 October 2008

What's "new" in New Literacy Studies? - First thoughts

This article is a really good overview of the New Literacy Studies (NLS) - although I must admit that I found it kind of tough going. I think I'll get more out it it at the end of the course although I understand why it's required reading at the start.

Street summarises the recent scholarship the field of NLS. Literacy is not process of acquiring specific skills but a "social practice". Street adds that:
This entails the recognition of multiple literacies, varying according to time and space, but also contested in relations of power. (Street 2003: 77)

Street makes a distinction between two conceptualisations of literacy:

  • autonomous (a kind of centralised and top-down conception of reading/writing presumed to have beneficial effects)


  • ideological ("culturally sensitive" conception of diverse socially embedded practices informed by specific conceptions of knowing and being ) NLS then, embraces the ideological model of literacy.

Some issues raised in the article:

  • Problem with terminology; 'autonomous' model also deeply ideological although disguised as something neutral and transcultural.


  • NLS overly concerned with 'local' literacies?


  • Need to attend more fully to power relations between hegemonic (dominant) literacies and local literacies.


  • NLS and education - interest in gap between home and school literacies, need to use non-school experience, learning and literacies in school settings.

References

Street, B. (2003). What's "new" in New Literacy Studies? Critical approaches to literacy in theory and practice. Current Issues in Comparative Education Vol.5(2) pp.77-91

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