Re: [xmca] FW: NCTEAR

From: Mike Cole (
Date: Mon Jan 29 2007 - 14:43:23 PST

thnx peter
hi kevin

On 1/29/07, Peter Smagorinsky <> wrote:
> Just two perhaps small points in relation to Jay's remarks:
> The "master writes, slave reads" analogy is historically wrong in terms of
> the US slave system, in which slaves were often brutally punished for
> learning to read--a problem that many believe has had persistent effects
> on
> African Americans' literacy.
> The idea that "if it's not online, it doesn't exist" assumes that everyone
> has access to technology, but that seems to assume that the many people in
> the US who live in deep poverty are using the web to shop, exchange
> emails,
> and so on. One problem I've had with the multiliteracies work is that it
> assumes that everyone is above the poverty level, which just isn't true.
> Peter
> -----Original Message-----
> From: [] On
> Behalf Of Jay Lemke
> Sent: Sunday, January 28, 2007 9:47 PM
> To:; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: Re: [xmca] FW: NCTEAR
> As I am one of the plenary speakers for this conference, I thought I'd put
> in two cents (or so).
> My talk's title is New Media & New Learning Communities, and one line of
> my
> abstract reads:
> Research on students' literacies needs to focus on their networked
> media: from fan-fiction sites, blogs, and MySpace identities, to online
> gameworlds, home-made podcasts, and SecondLife machinema.
> And I could have added ipods, cellphones, YouTube, and TIVO!
> I can appreciate that Gunther might be hoping to keep the word literacy
> for
> that old printed-text competency, else what will we call it? print
> literacy?
> alphabetic literacy? But it's far too late for that, or even, I think, to
> restrict it to letter-ate codes. And the reason is not just our profligate
> usage of the word. The phenomenon has changed.
> What we always wanted to mean by literacy was the ability to access
> codified
> knowledge in ways that made it possible to use it for our own purposes. We
> used to codify it mostly in textual (and numerical) forms and store it
> away
> in books and kindred media. And we also meant to focus on knowledge that
> was
> considered valuable, which is why literate was often in the past a synonym
> for educated or cultured.
> But today more and more of what people value is codified multi-modally, as
> integrated combinations of images and text and sound, animations, videos,
> 3D
> virtual spaces, etc. etc. And you can't really get at the meaning of these
> forms piecemeal: you have to integrate the text with its fellow-travelers,
> cross-contextualizing them by one another, to get at the kinds of meanings
> being made and stored more and more today.
> Another dimension of literacy that Gunther himself kept flogging people
> about in the 80s is its productive dimension: slaves read, masters write.
> So
> we enhanced the definition of literacy from a generalization of reading to
> a
> generalization that included writing:
> the ability to mobilize the resources of [name your code] to usefully
> create
> and interpret meanings in [name your medium].
> Even the narrow focus on text or print eventually made us realize that
> literacy is a whole technology, including the conventions for how to use
> its
> material apparatus. From how to decode a page of text, it expands to how
> to
> use all the parts of a book, to how to open it and hold it, to how to find
> it in the library. Literacy as technical and social and semiotic
> competence
> ... all to the same end of being able to create and access meanings and
> information ... which are now being coded through a myriad of interlocking
> technologies. And you pretty well have to be passably good with all of
> them
> if you are going to keep up with how under-30s with the wherewithal to are
> using anything we might still want to call literacy. (Libraries? books? if
> it's not online, it doesn't exist ... and if it's nothing but text, click
> on!)
> Is there a reasonable limit? Should we stop short of culinary literacy, or
> laundry literacy? or TIVO literacy? Maybe, to give the term a rest, but
> in
> fact the new literacies pervade almost every aspect of technological life
> today, and the meanings of the printed texts within them are often not
> usefully recoverable (or
> constructable) without the motor actions and sensory experiences that go
> hand-in-hand with them.
> A notion of mine that may have some kinship with "letter-oriented codes"
> is
> that of typological semiotic resources vs. topological ones. The former
> enable us to make meanings by categorial differences of kind, whether one
> letter vs another, one word vs another, one musical note vs another, one
> TIVO channel vs. another. The other sort allow meaning by degree, and all
> degrees of in-between-ness, like color spectra and sound pitch (not
> restricted to canonical notes of a
> scale) and mathematical quantity or continuous graphs. I suppose that if
> you
> could identify an area of meaning-making and knowledge codification in
> which
> NO typological representations (inscriptions, pace Latour) were involved,
> then maybe we could exclude that from being called a "literacy". (I
> include
> 'representations' here to eliminate the case of spoken language, which
> while
> a typological code
> -- in large part -- is contrasted with literate forms as durable
> representations). But I have a deep suspicion that the typological and the
> topological go hand in hand in any non-trivial understanding.
> If you'd like some thoughtful notions about what "writing" is, try Roy
> Harris' _Signs of Writing_ -- it should give an idea what some other
> letter-like codes might be and something of the basic technology involved.
> And for the broader notion of literacy as a resource for social
> meaning-making, Jim Gee's _Social Linguistics and Literacies_ helped drag
> "literacy" out of the schoolhouse closet. I'm afraid there's no putting it
> back now.
> JAY.
> At 02:03 PM 1/28/2007, you wrote:
> >I think you have been very generous with your time, Peter.
> >Your informative note put me in mind of the Machado/Friere volume on
> >reading the word and reading the world.
> >In this case, "reading" is close to the more general notion of
> >"interpreting." I expect that the multiple meanings
> >will not go away and will in general be clarified by the context.
> >
> >Now if only I could properly read those TIVO instructions so that I
> >could combine TIVO and certain channels it does not want to record!!
> >Its tough been technologically illiterate! :-)
> >
> >mike
> >
> >ps-- your forwards are a great way to stay in touch, especially when we
> >get reports back from folks who attend. I hope that you have forwarded
> >the prior not to kevin if he is not lurking out there somewhere
> >
> >On 1/28/07, Peter Smagorinsky <> wrote:
> >>
> >>Mike, I guess that asking me a direct question is one way to get me to
> >>contribute to these discussions. Sorry I've mostly lurked of
> >>late--it's one of those years.
> >>
> >>The question "What is literacy?" came up in a doctoral seminar I'm
> >>teaching on research in composition this semester. One of the students
> >>brought in something from Gunther Kress (a literacy-oriented semiotics
> >>guy) in which he argues that literacy ought only to be applied to the
> >>ability to read or produce letter-oriented codes. Kress has also been
> >>part of the New London Group, famed for its paper on Multiliteracies,
> >>a construct that accounts for "new" literacies largely following from
> >>recent technologies--the images, sounds, etc. involved in internet
> >>communication.
> >
> >
> >Jay Lemke
> >Professor
> >University of Michigan
> >School of Education
> >610 East University
> >Ann Arbor, MI 48109
> >
> >Tel. 734-763-9276
> >Email.
> >Website. <>
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