Friday, 24 October 2008

literacy events -v- literacy practices

Here's JD's useful distinction:

  • 'literacy practices' = specific type of text making activity, e.g. writing shopping list

  • 'literacy event'= specific instance of a literacy practice, e.g. child sitting with her Mum writing a list of things to buy (which is an instance of the 'literacy practice' of writing a shopping list)

Here are my thoughts ...shootin' from the hip ... thinking out loud ... not 100% sure I'm on the right track ...

Literacy events must surely precede literacy practices; characteristics from literacy events are abstracted and aggregated to construct an 'ideal' literacy practice (e.g. 'ideally' shopping lists are structured according to the shops or aisles from which products are to be selected so as to facilitate a more efficient shopping experience, they also indicate quantities of produce required etc.).

The idealised literacy practice must be realised - instantiated, exemplified, made text - through an individual communicative act that draws upon both the ideal characteristics of the literacy practice as well as from local resources (e.g. that individual's interests, their context etc.).

So, every literacy event is, potentially, a making new of a pre-existing literacy practice, e.g. a child may add stickers to her mum's shopping list or draw pictures.

I'm drawn to Street's assertion, cited by KP, that "literacy … is always instantiated, its potential realised, through local practices."(Street 2003:8).

I think I understand 'local'; insofar as all literacy events are socially-specific instantiations of literacy practices, they are local (i.e. deploying resources from, are meaningful in the context of, a specific scenario).

I'm guessing that 'local' doesn't just mean 'locale' and refer solely to geography but invokes other factors (class, ethnicity, gender, generation, myriad other individual factors)?What's the 'global' bit about though?

Here's an example to see if I'm the right track ... - south-London boys using lexis of US hip hop and/or elements of Jamaican patios in their text messages to one another? 'Global' here = influence of migration, popularity of black music/dance culture (mainly from US) on what we might think of as 'indigenous' varieties of (southern, metropolitan) English.

Not sure what 'indigenous' might mean now ... (the historicity of a group's association with a region?).

Reply to John

> students need to be taught and use standard ways of spelling

I agree with you; insofar as there is a 'market' * (e.g. job market) in which particular linguistic performances (e.g. use of standard spelling) have a value, then we'd be doing our students a disservice not to support them develop such competencies (I nearly wrote 'literacies'!).

I guess the thing that bugs me a bit is the 'literacy in the singular' attitude that's intolerant of language forms that deviate from that standard - e.g. txtspk - even when those language forms are creative and rich and absolutely appropriate to context. This article - I h8 txt msgs: How texting is wrecking our language exemplifies this attitude.



* see Bourdieu
The constitution of a linguistic market creates the conditions for an objective competition in and through which the legitimate competence can function as linguistic capital, producing a profit of distinction on the occasion of each social exchange.(Bourdieu 1992: 55)

Bourdieu, P. (1992). Language and Symbolic Power. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008


The association of literacy with writing/reading, the printed word in general, is interesting in the context of the forms of language emerging from digital environments and new technologies which look like they hover somewhere between speech and writing.

Here's Susan Herring:
Various attempts have been made by linguists to classify CMD [computer-mediated discourse], starting in the 1980s and early 1990s. Accustomed to dealing with two basic modalities of language – speech and writing – these linguists first asked: Is it a type of writing, because it is produced by typing on a keyboard and read as text on a computer screen? Is it “written speech” (Maynor 1994), because it exhibits features of orality, including rapid message exchange, informality, and representations of prosody? Or is it a third type, intermediate between speech and writing, or in any event characterized by unique production and reception constraints (Ferrara, Brunner & Whittemore 1991; Murray 1990)?
Herring, S. (2007). A faceted classification scheme for computer-mediated discourse. Language@Internet, 4.

"Could customers please switch off there mobile phones"

On a discussion board forum for a module I did last year on language and online learning, there was a lot of agreement that the notice could customers please switch off there mobile phones was irritating. What might this irritation tell about posters' attitudes to language?

What we have is an instance of someone mistakenly using the pronoun ‘there’ instead of the possessive adjective ‘their’. Pierre Bourdieu would argue that ‘their’ being the correct word to use in this context is entirely arbitrary. There’s no reason why it couldn’t be spelt ‘there’. Plenty of other words, after all, have the same spellings but different meanings. Academics and institutions, over time, have formalised and codified language - defining ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect’ usage, e.g. “could customers please switch off their mobile phones” is correct but “could customers please switch off there mobile phones” is incorrect.

Bourdieu argues that definitions of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ use of language (spelling, puncuation, vocabulary etc.) are, in fact, manifestations of the power of those who sustain their social distinction through language. Knowing the difference between ‘there’ and ‘their’ is a form of “linguistic capital”; I can use this in my social exchanges to produce what Bourdieu calls “a profit of distinction” (aka “I am better than you”).

My grammar and I

Can Bourdieu shed light on the success of Eat, shoots and leaves and My grammar and I?

Spotted in Gatwick Airport

Let's take some extracts from Language and Symbolic and Power:

The constitution of a linguistic market creates the conditions for an objective competition in and through which the legitimate competance can function as linguistic capital, producing a profit of distinction on the occasion of each social exchange.(Bourdieu 1992: 55)

The dominant competence functions as linguistic capital, securing a profit of distinction in its relation to other competences only in so far as certain conditions (the unification of the market and the uneven distribution of chances of access to the means of production of the legitimate competence, and to the legitimate places of expression) are continuously fulfilled, so that the groups which possess that competence are able to impose it as the only legitimate one in the formal markets (the fashionable, the educational, political and administrative markets) and in most of the linguistic interactions in which they are involved.
It is for this reason that those who seek to defend a threatened linguistic capital, such as knowledge of the classical languages in present-day France, are obliged to wage a total struggle. One cannot save the value of a competence unless one saves a market, in other words, the whole set of political and social conditions of production of the producers/consumers. (Bourdieu 1992: 56-7)


Bourdieu, P. (1992). Language and Symbolic and Power. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Literacy event 4: discussion board post

I guess this belongs to the domain of university (school for grown-ups)? It's a discussion board post to a thread on online netiquette so I guess the literacy practice is responding to a tutor's question.

discussion board post

Part of me is revelling in the new-found ability to articulate my own opinions (I'm usually using boards as a moderator/facilitator where I have much less freedom to have my say).

However, I can't be too confrontational and I don't want to give offence to the course team. So, even though I criticise the netiquette document, the criticism in enclosed in a 'praise burger' (i.e. two complimentary slices of soft bun-like praise). I'm trying to look at the issue from a couple of angles and understand why the guidelines are included. I close the post with an attempt at humour - cued by manic use of exclamation marks - to defuse any possible offence and to present myself as an approachable team player.

The persona I might be trying to construct in this - but perhaps more so in other posts - is a kind of guy you can knock ideas back and forward with. I'm not suggesting that I'm not like that in 'real life'; simply that in the context of a course where we don't know one another, it's important to present oneself as open to new ideas and respectful of others' opinions.

Literacy event 3: SNS wall post

Elgg (open source SNS) wall-to-wall exchange with a work colleague. The domain is work but the informality in the exchange and its subject matter relate to the home domain. The literacy practice is asking for recommendations.

SNS wall literacy practice

It's the early days of the Elgg installation so we're posting things as part of the process of getting to know how it works. The colleague whose wall I'm posting to is not a friend although we get on well and share similar interests. He's a good guy to talk to about techie things and is generous in his advice. There's none of the banter that's found in the txt message though because I don't know him so well and there's less shared history and discovered commonality.

Literacy event 2: a work email

This is a work-related email to two colleagues, one of whom is my line manager). The literacy practice is answering a question/solving a problem.

I'd say we've a more formal working relationship - formal in an HE, not a armed forces way - and the email is in response to an earlier email articulating some problems with our Elgg (an open source SNS) installation.

work email literacy practice

Sections of the earlier email are quoted and answers fairly brief. Key issues are explained and a way forward outlined. There's no conversational joking - it's all to-the-point, professional stuff.

I tend to use email in lieu of a phone call, especially when:
  • multiple recipients are involved
  • I want to leave an audit trail ("at today's meeting we agreed to ...")
  • I'm pressed for time and want to avoid the small talk that a phone call entails ("Hi X, how are things etc., etc. ... the reason I'm calling is ...")
Is another reason I use email a lot to do with the culture of the workplace where email is the default medium, even replacing face-to-face conversations with colleagues who are only a few doors down the corridor?

Literacy event 1: a txt exchange

Right, let's have a go at looking at my own literacy events.

Here's a short exchange of txt messages between a myself and a friend. We're a similar age, work in the same place and have sons the same age. The messages are about arranging for the boys to get together. The literacy practice then is 'agreeing a date/making an apointment. The domain is home, not work.


I have a particular style with this friend: lots of in-joke references to our middle-class lifestyles and privileged children, 'pet' names only used in emails and txts ('Mr T')' some camping it up ('dearest fruit'). Banter (mock offensiveness) is a key aprt of how we communicate textually (less so in spoken English). It's not a style I replicate with other friends - it's part of a particular dynamic between us. I think this shared style evolved over time and involved initiation and uptake. A style got developed and stuck.

My literacy practices

My literacy practices these days are predominantly technology-mediated.

Typically, in a day, I:

  • txt/send SMS messages
  • email
  • post to blog
  • post to discussion boards (my own KU courses as well as external ones I'm a student on)
  • post to walls, comments boxes etc on One Community (our Elgg installation)

Because these literacy practices are technology-mediated and asynchronous, I'm engaging in them at various times and places: home and office, working hours and early mornings or evenings.

It's difficult, given the informality of my working environment and good relationships with colleagues, to differentiate home literacy practices and work-related literacy practices. The domains may be different but I'm not sure the literacy practices are massively different.

I'm with Barton on the porous nature of domains:

The practices leak from one domain to the other and there is much overlap.
(Barton 1994: 40)


Barton, D. (1994) Literacy: An Introduction to the Ecology of Written Language. Oxford: Blackwell.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings
and some are treasured for
their markings -

they cause the eyes to melt
or the body to shriek
without pain.

I have never seen one fly, but
sometimes they perch on
the hand.

Craig Raine, A Martian sends a postcard home

Internet quotes

I have to put my quotes somewhere so why not here?

On the Internet, Nobody Knows You’re a Dog.
Peter Steiner. The New Yorker, page 61 of July 5 (Vol.69
(LXIX) no. 20), 1993. (graphic)

"The Net interprets censorship as damage and routes around it." John Gilmore (EFF). [source: Gilmore states: "I have never found where I first said this. But everyone believes it was me, as do I. If you find an appearance of this quote from before March '94, please let me know." Also in NYT 1/15/96, quoted in CACM 39(7):13. Later, Russell Nelson comments (and is confirmed by Gilmore) that on December 05 1993 Nelson sent Gilmore an email stating, "Great quote of you in Time magazine: 'The net treats censorship as a defect and routes around it.'"]

Thursday, 16 October 2008

The digital revolution will not be televised

I really love digital stuff but I'm kinda sceptical about some of the more grandiose claims made about a 'digital revolution' or a radical 'paradigm shift'.

I've written about this before, but here's a quick 'n' dirty animation (inspired by Terry Gilliam and realised for me by Darrel Manuel - thanks Darrel) articulating this scepticism:

I tend to talk, instead, of a 'digital turn'. Similar metaphor to 'revolution' I guess although I imagine it more like an oil tanker changing course or a flower turning towards the sun.

Print-based texts can be multimodal, multivocal generic hybrids too

Print-based texts can be multimodal, multivocal generic hybrids too.

This is a picture of me holding my copy of Aleksandar Hemon's The Lazarus Project:

Hemon: The Lazarus Project

The book :
  • contains text and pictures (some ambiguous ones taken by Hemon's friend, others of the corpse of Lazarus, a real-life Jewish immigrant shot by the head of Chicago's police);

  • reworks (lifting from contemporary newspapers, some invention) the anti-immigrant discourse of early C20th USA

  • blurs generic boundaries (fiction/autobiography - main character is a Bosnian immigrant like Hemon)

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Is Wikipedia a Bad Thing?

Some more on Clay Shirky, this time about Wikipedia (the site loathed by thousands of academics - see image below taken from an essay check sheet).

Wikipedia has now transcended the traditional functions of an encyclopedia. Within minutes of the bombs going off in the London transit system, someone created a Wikipedia page called "7 July 2005 London bombings." The article's first incarnation was five sentences long and attributed the explosions to a power surge in the Underground, one of the early theories floated before the bus bombings was linked to the Underground explosions. The Wikipedia page received more than a thousand edits in its first four hours of existence, as additional news came in; users added numerous pointers to traditional news sources (more symbiosis) and a list of contact numbers for people either trying to track loved ones or simply figuring out how to get home. What was conceived as an open encyclopedia in 2001 has become a general-purpose tool for gathering and distributing information quickly, a use that further cemented Wikipedia in people's minds as a useful reference work. (Shirky 2008: 116-7)


Shirky, C. (2008). Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations. New York: The Penguin Press.

Broadcast -v- Communications media (Clay Shirky)

I've only just got around to reading Clay Shirky's Here Comes Everybody and was stuck by his interesting take on the blurring of the distinction between broadcast (central, one-way, one-to-many - e.g. TV, radio, newspapers) and communications (dispersed, two-way, initially one-to-one but increasingly now one-to-many - e.g. phone, fax or email) media.


Here's what he has to say:

Now that our communications technology is changing, the distinctions among those patterns of comunication are evaporating; what was once a sharp break between two styles of communicating is becoming a smooth transition. Most user-generated content is created as communication in small groups, but since we're so unused to communications media and broadcast media being mixed together, we think that everyone is now broadcasting. This is a mistake. (Shirky 2008: 87)


Shirky, C. (2008). Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations. New York: The Penguin Press.

Quick postscriptum - a nice new term for UGC is "indigenous content"

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.


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

Monday, 13 October 2008

Adding to Merchant's list - Ianto Ware on Keen and Emos

Another defining characteristic of digital literacy practices might be the publicisation of the private? The family photo album is going online; pictures of nights out are posted to Facebook (minutes later?); details of travel and purchases are twittered or posted to blogs etc..

Here's a bit from an article by Ianto Ware on this:

What the rise of Web 2.0 has done is simply to bring everyday, private sphere dialogue driven literacies into the public sphere in a very obvious way.
Ware, I. (2008). Andrew Keen Vs the Emos: Youth, Publishing, and Transliteracy. M/C Journal, 11: 4. Accessed from:

Lawrence Lessig on Andrew Keen

Here's Lawrence Lessig, the founder of Creative Commons, on Andrew Keen (the full article is well worth a read though):

I think it is a great thing when amateurs create, even if the thing they create is not as great as what the professional creates. I want my kids to write. But that doesn’t mean that I’ll stop reading Hemingway and read only what they write. What Keen misses is the value to a culture that comes from developing the capacity to create—independent of the quality created. That doesn’t mean we should not criticize works created badly (such as, for example, Keen’s book…). But it does mean you’re missing the point if you simply compare the average blog to the NY times.
What a great, no-nonsense ripost to all those who claim blogs, YouTube etc. are drivel.

Why I like Michel de Certeau

I couldn't find my notes in the loft. I did, however, find a battered paperback (in French!) of L'invention du quotidien:

De Certeau

I will post some definitions of strategies and tactics in a few days time but for now here are some thoughts on why I like Michel de Certeau and why he might be useful to this course.

Ok, I like de Certeau because he acknowledges the intelligence, imagination, resourcefulness and creativity of ordinary people. I think this is relevant to New Literacy Studies as it looks to be about acknowledging (valuing?) multiple ways of making and reading texts.

De Certeau maintains that the majority of ordinary people are denied access to the means of cultural production and have little choice but to consume the products of the dominant cultural economy of large corporations and multinationals. However, despite their apparent powerlessness, and in the face of a seemingly all-pervasive institutional control, ordinary people assert their own creativity in multifarious but hidden ways:

To a rationalized, expansionist and at the same time centralized, clamorous, and spectacular production corresponds another production, called "consumption." The latter is devious, it is dispersed, but it insinuates itself everywhere, silently and almost invisible, because it does not manifest itself through its own products, but rather through its ways of using the products imposed by a dominant economic order.
(de Certeau 1984, xii-xiii)

In another work called La Culture au pluriel (I'm not sure it's available in English translation), de Certeau writes of feeling awe-struck at the scale of this unacknowleded creativity:

I have to admit that there is no text, nor any institution that can ever take the place of, or compete with, the distant murmur that can be heard coming from machines, tools, kitchens - the thousands of noises of creative activity. Innumerable lexicons, strange vocabularies. They grow silent as soon as the museum or writing seizes fragments from them in order to make them speak their own interests. (quoted in Rigby 1991, 18)
I think one interesting development of the so-called digital age that I'd like to follow up is that this 'other' production is becoming more visible and less silent.

Video and image sharing sites such as YouTube and Flickr, social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook are providing new spaces for the articulation of "consumption".


De Certeau, M. (1984). The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Rigby, B. (1991) Popular Culture in Modern France: A Study of Cultural Discourse. London: Routledge.

Digital texts are like the Pompidou Centre

When I was a teenager, and desperately in love with the idea of living in Paris, I particularly liked le Centre Pompidou (aka Beaubourg).

Following up on my earlier comments on Merchant's definition of digital texts, I think they resemble Beaubourg's exoskeletal architecture - all the internal structural bits visible externally.

What I mean by that is that there's something about digital textuality that makes manifest some of the underlying features of all texts.

Friday, 10 October 2008

Adding to Merchant's list - microcontent

Here's a possible addition to Guy Merchant's ten defining feaures of digital texts - microcontent.

This is Bryan Alexander's definition:

These sections of the Web break away from the page metaphor. Rather than following the notion of the Web as book, they are predicated on microcontent. Blogs are about posts, not pages. Wikis are streams of conversation, revision, amendment, and truncation. Podcasts are shuttled between Web sites, RSS feeds, and diverse players. These content blocks can be saved, summarized, addressed, copied, quoted, and built into new projects.


Alexander, B.(2006) Web 2.0: A New Wave of Innovation for Teaching and Learning? Accessed from:

Notes on writing the future in the digital age

Merchant argues that the production and consumption of digital texts is very different to that of print-based texts. He lists the following characteristics:

  1. A move from the fixed to the fluid: the text is no longer contained between the covers or by the limits of the page.
  2. Texts become interwoven in more complex ways through the use of hyperlinks.
  3. Texts can be easily revised, updated, added to and appended.
  4. Genres borrow freely, hybridise and mutate.
  5. Texts can become collaborative and multivocal, with replies, links, posted comments and borrowing - the roles of readers and writers overlap.
  6. Reading and writing paths are often non-linear.
  7. Texts become more densely multimodal (as multimedia allows for a rich interplay of modes).
  8. The communicative space is shared and location diminishes in significance as the local fuses with the global.
  9. The impression of co-presence and synchronous engagement increases.
  10. Boundaries begin to blur (work/leisure; public/private; serious/frivolous).

    (Merchant 2007, 122)

I think I agree with Merchant on these characteristics but with a couple of biggish reservations:

Firstly, because digital texts can do all these things (e.g. enable collaborative authoring, revision, blur generic boundaries etc.) does it mean that this is how they are actually being used? In essence, is Merchant describing actual manifestations of digital texts or suggesting some of the directions digital texts might possibly take?

Secondly, I think that on a more sophisticated level, printed texts (books) have never been contained by their physical limitations and have always been interwoven and multivocal. Here's Michel Foucault and Roland Barthes ( I should probably cite Julia Kristeva too) on this:

The frontiers of a book are never clear-cut: beyond the title, the first lines and the last full stop, beyond its internal configuration and its autonomous form, it is caught up in a system of references to other books, other texts, other sentences: it is a node within a network... The book is not simply the object that one holds in one's hands... Its unity is variable and relative.
(Foucault 1974, 23)

[text is] ... woven entirely with citations, references, echoes, cultural languages (what language is not?) antecedent or contemporary, which cut across it through and through in a vast stereophony. The intertextual in which every text is held, it itself being the text-between of another text, is not to be confused with some origin of the text: to try to find the 'sources', the 'influences' of a work, is to fall in with the myth of filiation; the citations which go to make up a text are anonymous, untraceable, and yet already read: they are quotations without inverted commas.
(Barthes 1977, 160)

Do digital texts reveal more explictly the ways in which all texts are constructed? Is the really fantastic thing about them the ways they expose how all texts are produced?


Barthes, R. (1977) Image - Music - Text. London : Fontana.

Foucault, M. (1974) The Archaeology of Knowledge. London: Tavistock.

Merchant, G. (2007) Writing the future in the digital age. Literacy 41:3, 118–128

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Literacies of fusion - first thoughts

Much sympathy with the literacies of fusion concept. Millard advocates a productive dialogue between pupils and teachers about practices taking place outside school (TV, DVDs, videogames, readings of books and comics) and other, more conventional pedagogic practices rehearsed inside school.

There is some resonance for me in HE – what are our students doing (esp. with technology) outside the lecture theatre or before coming to uni? What can we learn from it? How can we use what they do to support them in their studies? Can the energies/enthusiasm of the fun/socialising stuff they do off campus be directed toward the learning outcomes of HE courses?

I like the fusion cuisine metaphor too – it doesn’t suggest one cuisine replacing another but, rather, a new combination. Analogue and digital terrine to start; a main course of fricassé of linearity and multimodality; a dessert of popular culture tart on a coulis of canonical texts? This appeals to me as I also think school is a place where you should be exposed to things you don't get at home as well (e.g. my white, European, secular children are learning about Diwali and Chinese New Year).

I also wonder – but others know schools better than I do - if Millard doesn’t construct a bit of a straw man in her description of the ways schools operate:
“… the precedence of written, over spoken texts with a hierarchy of importance topped by the analytical and expository skills of essayist literacy, which still dominate modes of assessment in higher education (Lillis, 2001). It is based on the reaffirmation of a standard, written, national language, transmitted largely through a print-based, linear pedagogy.”

Are things really that fixed? I'm always delighted by the creativity of the environments I see in my children's schools and nurseries (colourful work plastered on every wall, welcome messages in 15 different languages etc.).

I'd accept the claim that "essayist literacy" is probably still the default mode of academic discourse expected in HE - even on this course apparently ;-) - but is it the same in schools? I read Clare Dowdall's article on dissonance at about the same time and was struck by how the school-based writing activity ('Knightly Norman') encouraged pupils to engage in a degree of linguistic/stylistic play (news report on events of 1066) - some degrees removed from "essayist literacy".

I wasn't sure of the connection between Millard's advocacy of fusion literacies - essentially to support reading and composition - and her conclusion in which she cites Giroux's conception of literacy as "an emerging act of consciousness and resistance" (which sounds a bit like Paolo Freire). Literacy defined here sounds like the ability to uncover the mecanisms of ideological manipulation and discover the real relations of power at play. At what age could/should children be expected to engage with texts at this level of sophistication?

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.

    De Certeau and the iPhone hackers

    De Certeau and the iPhone hackers: is there a link? This post comes out of some discussion board posts on iPhones and Michel de Certeau and is, I guess, a kind of "weave".

    Apple is employing what de Certeau would call a 'strategy' of careful control of the apps (applications, the gadgets and gizmos that add functionality to your device) available for purchase or free download from the iTunes Store.

    In the face of this 'strategy', iPhone users and apps developers are employing a range of what de Certeau would term 'tactics' (e.g. the creation of web sites in which tips on how to 'hack' your iPhone and interesting apps are publicised).

    Apple is saying: we control the virtual space of the iTunes Store; we define how an iPhone can be used and what applications are appropriate; our corporate/commercial interests come first.

    Users - and the developer community - resist this; they find ways of outwitting the control mecanisms of Apple's strategy. The Apple iPhone School web site, for example, has tutorials on jailbreaking, hacking, modding and unlocking - terms which evoke de Certeau's poaching metaphor - and reveals a vibrant culture of reinterpretation and reappropriation.

    Is the conflict between 'strategy' and 'tactics' the inevitable consequence of power asymmetry? Link to Clay Shirky's Here comes everybody and his reflections on the ease and speed of development of informal organisations and 'lightweight collaboration' on the web.

    [Posted with iBlogger from my iPhone]

    Tuesday, 7 October 2008

    Grey day in Kingston upon Thames

    iPhones - reply to Jody

    I was interested to read of Jody's enthusiasm for the iPhone and mobile learning (which I share).

    I'm currently sitting by the Thames, taking a break from my walk to work and writing this post to my blog using my iPhone and an application called iBlogger. There are lots of other ways of doing this - using notes and email for example.

    I like this ability to record the here and now (with text, voice, image) to share or to come back to later to re-edit.

    BTW, the Shelfari site looks great.

    Mobile Blogging from here.

    Monday, 6 October 2008

    First thoughts on the new course

    Logged in to New Literacies today and posted a couple of contributions.

    Really nice WebCT site -a real effort to create something more fun to use than the standard interface and structure of most WebCT sites.

    Interestingly, there's no section on the assessment - a big 6,000 word essay apparently. I revert to student behaviour and it's the first thing I look for.

    I suspect that the course team took a deliberate decision to conceal it so that we'd concentrate on the readings and activities.

    There's no rushing ahead to later weeks' activities as weekly units look to be time released. There is, however, a detailed, thematically arranged reading list).

    I think it's a good move not to hit online learners with all the content on day 1. The tracking back option will be more useful though as learning is about recursive movements.

    The welcome video from Julia was a nice touch (that's an idea I'll steal!) and I liked the idea of PowerPoint presentations to introduce course team and students - much better than "say a few words about yourself in this forum".

    Mobile Blogging from here.

    Web 2.0 and HE

    The term 'Web 2.0' denotes a loose amalgam of emergent tools and technologies characterised by a dynamic social element and an emphasis on content sharing and collaboration.

    There are a number of excellent introductions to the 'volatile' environments and tools that define the Web 2.0 phenomenon. Here are some key ones:

    Alexander, B. (2006) Web 2.0: a new wave of innovation for teaching and
    learning? Educause Review 41(2)
    Last accessed 22 January
    2008 from:

    Anderson. P (2007). What is Web 2.0? Ideas, Technologies and
    Implications for Education (
    Last accessed 22 January 2008 from:

    O'Reilly, Tim (2005) What is Web 2.0?: design patterns and business
    models for the next generation of software

    Last accessed 22 January
    2008 from:

    Wesch, M. (2007) Web 2.0 ... The Machine is Us/ing Us
    accessed 22 January 2008 from:

    Wikis in HE

    A wiki is a web site that any user can edit. For this reason, they are sometimes known as read/write web pages.

    Typically, a group of people with shared interests and/or common goals participate in the creation and development of web pages and other online documentation on a particular domain of knowledge.

    The term wiki is also used to refer to the software that enables online collaboration. Wiki software offers easy-to-use html editing tools that allow users to create web pages, embed images, add hyperlinks and so on.

    If you're interested in learning more about wiki software Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia and best-known example of a wiki, has an excellent description.

    Here are some of the main characteristics of a wiki:
    • easy-to-use interface that allows users to upload and edit entries through their web browser;
    • facility for the originator of a wiki to determine who has edit rights (wikis therefore support both individual and team work);
    • version control that automatically saves earlier pages (therefore retrievable in the event of a mistake or disagreement).

    Finally, here are some useful articles:

    Bristow, R. (2005). 'Beyond email: wikis, blogs and other strange beasts'. Ariadne, 42. Accessed 23 January 2008 from:

    Pixy Ferris, S. and Wilder, H.(2006) 'Uses and potentials of wikis in the classroom'. Innovate: journal of online education 2(5). Accessed 23 January 2008 from:

    Lamb, B. (2004) 'Wide open spaces: wikis, ready or not'. Educause Review 39(5). Accessed 23 January 2008 from:

    Blogs in HE

    A blog is, in essence, an online journal.

    Implicit in the structure of a blog is an ownership model whereby a primary author creates content (e.g. expresses an opinion) which is then commented upon by others. Interaction takes the form of commentary produced by the online audience relating to primary content.

    Here's a summary of the main features of a blog:
    • individual dated entries comprised of text and images, hyperlinks to external websites and other media;
    • reverse chronological arrangement of entries that places the most recent entry at the top of the page;
    • easy-to-use interface that allows users to upload and edit entries through their web browser;
    • secondary content made possible through a comments box after each entry allowing others to respond to primary content;
    • search function;
    • ability to 'tag' blog posts;
    • automatic archiving of entries according to month and year;
    Finally, some useful articles:

    Bristow, R. (2005). Beyond email: wikis, blogs and other strange beasts. Ariadne, 42

    Dickey, M. D. (2004) The impact of web-logs (blogs) on student perceptions of isolation and alienation in a web-based distance-learning environment. Open Learning, 19(3) 279-292

    Nückles, M. et al. (2004). The use of public learning diaries in blended learning. Journal of Educational Media, 29 (1), 49-66

    Weller, M. et al. (2005).Use of innovative technologies on an e-learning course. Internet and Higher Education, 8, 61–71

    Williams, J. B. and Jacobs, J. (2004). Exploring the use of blogs as learning spaces in the higher education sector. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 20(2), 232-247.

    Social Bookmarking

    Social bookmarking refers to the practice of storing your favourite web sites online using web-based services such as, Furl or BibSonomy.

    The social dimension of this practice comes from making your bookmarked web sites public, allowing you to share them with friends, family and, of course, colleagues and students. is perhaps the best-known social bookmarking site and the one we’ve recommend. First, you’ll need to create an account. This takes a few seconds and just requires you to choose a username and password. Once, created, you’ll then need to install two buttons on web browser. One button is a short cut to your web page; the other is a tag button allowing you to bookmark the web sites you are viewing and add keywords and comments. Any sites you bookmark are added to your personal page.

    By using a social bookmarking site, your bookmarks are no longer tied to a particular computer. Wherever you have web access, you have access to your bookmarks.

    When you bookmark a site, you are asked to assign it a tag or keyword. This helps organise your bookmarks and allows you, should you wish, to share your bookmarks more selectively by linking to your page of favourite sites with a particular tag, as in the example below:
    Adding a web site to your favourites will allow you to view how many other people have bookmarked it as well as the other sites they have added to their favourites. It’s also possible exploit the ‘wisdom of crowds’ by searching for web sites by tag and then bookmarking other users’ bookmarks.

    Social bookmarking isn’t just about you sharing web sites with your students. It’s easy for students to create their own individual or joint accounts and creating their own set of tagged and annotated web pages.

    Cousin on the VLE

    Here are some interesting extracts from Glynis Cousin's chapter relevant to our discussion of VLEs:
    .. unless [...] experimentation is encouraged, VLE environments tend to be skewed towards the simulation of the classroom, lecture hall, tutor's office and the student common room. […]Another clue to the resonance VLEs establish with the old world can be found in their brand names or symbols: Blackboard and First Class are two obvious ones and in the case of the WebCT logo we have the image of a little white, male professor complete with mortar board and gown, clutching the sturdy medium of paper. (Cousin: 2005 p.121)
    This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 License.

    Though the online medium can allow forays into unchartered territory, there is a level at which the VLE pulls up the drawbridge, enclosing the student and tutor within a familiar university building. [...] … the identities encouraged by VLEs derive from a protectionist view of the university as the centre and controller of knowledge production. (Cousin: 2005 pp.122-123)

    ... it may be best to regard VLEs as transitional objects, enabling academics to work with the new and the old simultaneously. (Cousin 2005: 127-8)

    ... the declining use of any media which have played a part in our identity formation is understandably experienced as loss. For some this loss prompts a luddite yearning for the apparent safety of the past. p.120


    Cousin, G. (2005) 'Learning from cyberspace' in Land, R. and Bayne, S. (eds) Education in cyberspace. London: RoutledgeFalmer. pp. 117-129

    Social Networking

    There are a number of very popular social networking sites (SNS) now which allow users to connect and interact with others using a range of tools including instant messaging, email, video, voice chat, file sharing, blogs, wikis, discussion boards and ‘wall’ spaces.

    The most popular social networking environments are currently Facebook, MySpace and Bebo.

    For a short video introduction to social networking, take a look at the video below:

    If you’d like some further reading then try:

    boyd, d. m., & Ellison, N. B. (2007). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1).

    Selwyn, N. (2007). Screw Blackboard... do it on Facebook! an investigation of students' educational use of Facebook. Paper presented to Poke 1.0 – Facebook social research symposium, November.

    Silly stuff

    As promised, here's the Facebook for silver surfers spoof I mentionned last night:

    Click on image to access web page

    You might also enjoy this video too. Not sure what it is - authentic or spoof? - but it's a nice warning to those who predict technology-driven utopias (and dystopias) for learning:


    Mobile Internet