Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Kress on 'communicational landscapes'

The communicational landscapes of today, their relation to current forms of work and to current forms of pleasure, demand a recasting of our thinking about representation in the most far-reaching form. The world, now, is no longer a world in which the written language is dominant.
(Kress 1997 :5)

The landscapes of communication are changing, are being changed in the most fundamental ways; and it is happening now. (Kress 1997 :5)


Kress, G. (1997). Before Writing: Rethinking the paths to literacy. London: Routledge.

Literacy definitions

A literacy is a stable coherent, identifiable configuration of practices such as legal literacy, or the literacy of specific workplaces. (Barton 2007:38)

Looking at different literacy events it is clear that literacy is not the same in all contexts: rather, there are different literacies…within a given culture, there are different literacies associated with different domains of life. Contemporary life can be analysed in a simple way into domains of activity such as home, school, work-place. (Barton and Hamilton 1998: 9)

Some of these literacies have become powerful and dominant, while others have been constrained and devalued. The problem is not so much a lack of literacy, but a lack of social justice. Local knowledge is not always appreciated and local literacies are not always recognised. (Taylor 1997: 4)

... the traditional view of literacy as the ability to read and write rips literacy out of its sociocultural contexts and treats it as an asocial cognitive skill with little or nothing to do with human relationships. It cloaks literacy's connections to power, to social identity, and to ideologies, often in the service of privileging certain types of literact and certain types of people (Gee 1996: 46)

Academic writing is one type of literacy. (Ivanic 1998: 75)


Barton, D. (2007 2nd ed.). Literacy. Oxford: Blackwell

Barton, D. and Hamilton, M. (1998). Local Literacies. London: Routledge.

Ivanic, R. (1998). Writing and Identity: The discoursal construction of identity in academic writing. Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins.

Lankshear, C. (1987). Literacy, Schooling and Revolution. London: Falmer Press

Digital literacy as mission civilisatrice

I'm a bit suspicious of attempts to fix digital literacy which I associate - fairly or unfairly - with the colonial concept of the mission civilisatrice, bringing enlightenment to the 'dark continent' of primitive youth practices.

I do think that any definition of digital literacy needs to start with an understanding of and respect for 'vernacular' digital literacies. I'm not always sure I see much understanding and respect about this from academics. I've compiled a sottisier of extracts although I'm sure they will be more.

No respect

When the dealers are selling drugs outside the school gates you know things in the educational system have gone bad. However, when the kids start using textspk in their exams and cite wikipedia in their essays it's time to get tough. Thankfully we have a Magnum Force of academics to clean up our hallowed halls. Here are my top three 'Dirty Harrys' targeting their .44 magnums at those punks using blogs, Wikipedia and other filth:

Wikipedians seem an unappealing bunch - computer fanatics, generally male, usually teenagers. They see the world only from a youthful cab driver's perspective. If anyone disagrees with the Wikipedian consensus, their edits are "reverted" and they can be banned - "indefinitely". And now it is these "editors" who are regularly trumping the fuddy-duddy professors in their ivory towers, plodding patiently through dusty books to produce yet more ... dusty books. Books!
Cohen, M. (28 August 2008). 'Encyclopaedia Idiotica'. Times Higher Education

As a dialect, text ("textese"?) is thin and - compared, say, with Californian personalised licence plates - unimaginative. It is bleak, bald, sad shorthand. Drab shrinktalk. [...] Texting is penmanship for illiterates.
Sutherland, J. (11 November 2002). 'Cn u txt?'. The Guardian.

As blogs continue to fill the Web with bizarre daily rituals and opinions of people who we would never bother speaking to at a party, let alone invite into our own homes, there has never been a greater need to stress the importance of intelligence, education, credentials and credibility.
Brabazon, T. (2006). 'The Google Effect: Googling, Blogging, Wikis and the Flattening of Expertise'. Libri, 56: 157-167

Paradoxically, the above extracts exemplify the very characteristics many tutors discourage in student writing: unsubstantiated generalisations, crude ad hominems, offensive language, a complete lack of understanding, intellectual curiosity and generosity etc. etc..

All extracts reveal the repellent aspects of some academics: a sense of intellectual superiority, for example, or a belief in their own fine wit (how I laughed at Cohen's sarcasm towards those nerds dissing professors and books).

Finally, their sounding off on topics they've very little expertise in embodies the imagined thing they dislike about the web: the no-nothing amateur usurping the expert. Yup, I certainly wouldn't talk to any of them at a party (let alone invite them into my home).

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

David Crystal on txting

I've been looking in on - and sometimes posting to - a wiki on Digital Literacy.

Here's a question that's come out of it: aren't our students already digitally literate?
I'm picking up from some of the pages and posts the idea of digital literacy that's forming is predicated on a deficit model; digital literacy is something that students don't have until we give it to them.

Is this fair? Isn't the question really about understanding students' digital literacies before they come to university and developing it further?

If anyone's in 'deficit' could it be academic staff too quick to dismiss the digital literacy practices of students (I've been reading a truly appalling book by Tara Brabazon called The University of Google which exemplifies this attitude).

Anyway, here are some nice extracts from David Crystal's book on txting:

There is rather curious ambivalence around. Complaints are made about children's poor literacy, and then, when a technology arrives that provides fresh and motivating opportunities to read and write, such as email, chat, blogging, and texting, complaints are made about that. (Crystal 2008: 157)

Children could not be good at texting if they had not already developed considerable literacy awareness. Before you can write abbreviated forms effectively and play with them, you need to have a sense of how the sounds of your language relate to the letters. You need to know that there are such things as alternative spellings. You need to have a good visual memory and good motor skills. If you are aware that your texting behaviour is different, you must have already intuited that there is such a thing as a standard. If you are using such abbreviations as lol ('laughing out loud') and brb ('be right back'), you must have developed a sensitivity to the communicative needs of your textees, because these forms show you are responding to them. If you are using imho ('in my humble opinion') or afaik ('as far as I know'), you must be aware of the possible effect your choice of language might have on them, because these forms show you are self-critical. Teenage texters are not stupid nor are they socially inept within their peer group. They know exactly what they are doing. (Crystal 2008: 162-3)


Crystal, D. (2008). Txting: the gr8 db8. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Extract from digital youth summary

youth use online media to extend friendships and interests. Most youth use online networks to extend the friendships that they navigate in the familiar contexts of school, religious organizations, sports, and other local activities. They can be “always on,” in constant contact with their friends through private communications like instant messaging or mobile phones, as well as in public ways through social network sites such asMySpace and Facebook. With these “friendship-driven”practices, youth are almost always associating with people they already know in their offline lives. The majorityof youth use new media to “hang out” and extend existing friendships in these ways.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Technology as conservative force

Technology has not generally been a revolutionary force; it has been responsible for keeping things the same as much as changing them. (Edgerton 2006: 212)


Edgerton, D. (2006). The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History since 1900. London: Profile Books

Physical and virtual space

... we need to treat Internet media as continuous with and embedded in other social spaces (Miller & Slater 2000: 5).
The idea of space having been fractured refers to the emergence of cyberspace as a distinctively new space that co-exists with physical space. Cyberspace has not displaced physical space, of course, and will not displace it. Nor, however, can physical space dismiss cyberspace. For the majority of young people in so-called developed countries who are now in adolescence, cyberspace has been integral to their experience of 'spatiality' since their early years. […] Co-existence is the destiny of these two spaces (Lankshear and Knobel 2006 :31-2).


Lankshear, C. and Knobel, M. (2006). New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Classroom Learning. Maidenhead: Open University Press

Miller, D. & Slater, D. (2000). The Internet: An Ethnographic Approach. Oxford: Berg.

New Literacy Studies, New London Group, New Literacies

  • New Literacy Studies: coming out of work by Gee and Street and Heath and Barton and Hamilton that specifically looked at literacy as a social practice. focusing on domains of practice.

  • the 'new literacies': comes more from the work of Lankshear and Knobel, identifying ways in which literacy is now something very different when considered in relation to the new communicative landscape. This 'new literacies' draws on theory from new literacy studies, but also draws on theory from other sources, particularly the 'New London Group' (Kress, Cope and Kalantzis and others) that looked at ways of understand meaning making in relation to Design and multimodality.

That dana boyd quote on 'glocalization'

The digital era has allowed us to cross space and time, engage with people in a far-off time zone as though they were just next door, do business with people around the world, and develop information systems that potentially network us all closer and closer every day. Yet, people don't live in a global world - they are more concerned with the cultures in which they participate. (boyd: 2006)


boyd, d. (2006). 'G/localization: When Global Information and Local Interaction Collide.' O'Reilly Emerging Technology Conference, San Diego, CA. March 6.

My definition: RSS feeds

RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication.

The basic principle is that if a user decides that a web site such as the BBC News web site or a blog, has regularly updated content worth following, they can ‘subscribe’ to it. This involves finding the RSS feed (a kind of web address) for that site usually represented by an orange icon.

The users then copies the feed into something called an RSS reader (aka RSS aggregator) which displays the titles of new articles or posts as well, generally, as the first few lines. The user can then skim read the list that it produces. Clicking on any item in the list will take them to the full article. RSS readers include Google Reader but I like personal start pages like iGoogle, Netvibes and Pageflakes which also include this functionality.

Here's another great YouTube video definition:

For mash get Smash

There's an advert I loved as a kid (now, of course, on YouTube, that repository of collective cultural memory).

The ad was for a powdered mash potato mix (mmmm ... yummy) and featured robots from outer space laughing at simple earthlings making do with peeling and cooking actual potatoes.

It's how I think my own (digi)kids will react when I show them my old LPs (maybe even books?).

Gee on essayist literacy

A further significant aspect of essayist prose style is the fictionalization of both the audience and the author. The 'reader' of an essayist text is not an ordinary human being but an idealization, a rational mind formed by the rational body of knowledge of which the essay is a part. By the same token the author is a fiction, since the process of writing and editing essayist texts leads to an effacement of individual and idiosyncratic identity. (Gee 1990: 60-61)


Gee, J. Social Linguistics and Literacies: Ideology in Discourses (2nd edition)

Barthes: landscape in a bean

Ok, I'm going to use my blog in a really 'bad' way to post quotations and definitions I use/need a lot.

Here's the first:

There are said to be certain Buddhists whose ascetic practices enable them to see a whole landscape in a bean. (Barthes 1974: p.3)


Barthes, R. (1974) S/Z. New York: Hill and Wang.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Rough notes on the mobile internet

One of the developments we've been looking at a lot recently is the growth of the 'mobile internet/mobile web'.

As an enthusiastic iPhone user I want to attribute this growth to Apple but suspect it's mainly:

  • mobile phone operators offering reasonably-priced (?) flat rate deals with unlimited internet access;

  • said mobile phone operators advertising the benefits of being able to access favourite sites ;
  • the proliferation of handsets and mobile browsers that give users access to a web that looks recognisably web-like (and not a horribly adulterated version). I think the iPhone set a standard that others still have to beat - there's no 'iPhone 'killer' yet although Samsung and LG are gaining ground - unlike Nokia and Blackberry.
iPhone fanclub (Surbiton branch)

Related to this I guess is the growth of the 'mobile app'. Here Apple's influence is again dominant with Microsoft and Nokia opening their own applications store. The apps I use on my iPhone for Facebook and Google are great - I wish we had something like it for our VLE.

Facebook on iPhone