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RE: [xmca] Fwd: Visual literacy?
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- Subject: RE: [xmca] Fwd: Visual literacy?
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- Date: Mon, 21 Dec 2009 17:41:46 -0800
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- Thread-topic: [xmca] Fwd: Visual literacy?
I haven't heard 'new media literacy'... the "new literacies" which seems
to be replacing multimodal literacies.
Call me old fashioned, but I'm sticking with transmediation...
From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com]
On Behalf Of Jenna McWilliams
Sent: Monday, December 21, 2009 5:37 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Fwd: Visual literacy?
Yes, health literacy, railroad literacy, and let's throw in computer
literacy while we're at it--they no doubt mean that you can set up
your computer to print out the train schedule so that just in case you
don't recognize a railroad track when you come upon it you won't get
hit by a train. And that if you do get hit by a train, you'll be
health literate enough to call for an ambulance. That's assuming
you're cellphone literate, of course.
I wonder what folks on this listserv make of the term "new media
literacy." As my path crosses between media studies and education, I
find this term being leveraged for a vast range of purposes, and with
a vast range of meanings attached.
Learning Sciences Program, Indiana University
On Dec 21, 2009, at 8:16 PM, Jay Lemke wrote:
> Well, I just reformatted the subject line to the main topic, I
> think. But in such a way that the archives will still put it with
> the earlier posts, I hope.
> I was asked to do a talk about how the concept of literacy has
> changed, and thought it through, but never actually did the talk. It
> was requested by some progressive people who found themselves in
> partnership with some more conservative types who thought of
> literacy as only reading verbal text linguistically (if that), with
> maybe writing as an afterthought.
> I long ago concluded that you can't reasonably define literacy as
> anything other than the use of semiotic resources in meaning-making.
> All attempts to narrow, except for historical purposes in matters of
> usage, just don't wash for me intellectually. So math literacy and
> visual literacy are, along with text literacy, just different pieces
> of the same pie, as anyone reading or writing a technical document
> or scientific article will tell you. Indeed it is often really hard
> to separate the three semiotic resource systems involved, so much so
> that I became convinced that (a) they have common historical origins
> and ontogenetic precursors, and (b) they really form a single
> functional system, even if you can sometimes tease them apart with
> formal analytical methods.
> That implies of course that TEACHING them separately is not a good
> strategy. And if we turn to face-to-face communication, then gesture
> and posture and meaning-communicating movement belong similarly with
> speech as one functional system, something that some researchers in
> non-verbal communication more or less realized long ago.
> Now "health literacy" as Mike implied, would seem to be a more
> metaphorical usage. It really means basic knowledge about human
> health, and it is about content, not means of making meaning. About
> a particular kind of meaning made. On this model we could have
> railroad literacy, too.
> And that means that terms like text literacy, visual literacy, and
> math literacy wind up with double meanings. Knowledge of literature
> and maybe other genres; knowledge of art works and history,
> knowledge of mathematical theorems, etc. Except that in the
> semiotics of these literacies, a lot of that knowledge can also be
> mobilized as intertextual resources, which are a special kind of
> semiotic resource.
> Bodies of knowledge, however, do not form semiotic resource SYSTEMS
> in themselves. They don't have the characteristic paradigmatic and
> agnatic organization, nor the realization and instantiation
> relations, etc. You can't organize them into minimal contrast pairs.
> You can however deploy their elements as semiotic units, eg. in
> So knowledge literacies can be deployed with and within genuine
> semiotic literacies, and while there may be only one all-modes
> Semiotic Literacy, at least in functional terms, there are certainly
> a large number of rather distinct knowledge literacies, however
> fuzzy the boundaries. What makes a knowledge literacy useful, or
> necessary, is just the fact that you can't substitute another one
> for it in its primary domains of use.
> Once upon a time, to be literate or "lettered" meant to be educated
> or knowledgeable, in general. And the term may just be trying to get
> back home.
>> Mike, you write:
>> "I managed a D+ in my one obligatory art producing class in college
>> (a work later exhibited, by some really odd
>> error, in a show of student art which makes one wonder at the
>> judgments involved on either side of the
>> process!). I am a hopeless plastic arts producer. But not entirely
>> illiterate as a reader, finder of meanings."
>> It's fair enough to argue that reading and writing are not
>> equivalent forms of literacy. But in this crazy multimodal culture
>> of ours, where reading and writing both require adeptness with
>> design proficiencies (remember that even the text we read on the
>> screen is a digital product--the 'translation' of code into a
>> specifically designed visual format that we can interpret), what we
>> call "visual literacy" is increasingly an essential component of
>> BOTH reading and writing. Visual literacy goes far beyond what we
>> learned in art class--the color wheel and all that.
>> In fact, it seems a little strange to link visual literacy to
>> museumgoing. I bombed art class right along with the best of them,
>> and success in art class still wouldn't have prepared me to engage
>> in the sorts of communications platforms that have become the most
>> significant message delivery systems. Indeed, design and visual
>> literacy (or whatever you want to call them) skills are so embedded
>> in communication platforms that I find myself making design
>> decisions without a thought (as when I re-formatted the chunk I
>> quoted from the previous email in this thread, because when I
>> pasted it in the line breaks got all funky--distracting for the
>> reader!). I don't know if the fact that visual literacy (or
>> whatever you want to call it) is embedded within reading and
>> writing literacy practices strengthens or weaken the case for
>> calling it a form of literacy; I only know that it's both important
>> and different enough from reading and writing skills to deserve its
>> own label, if only so we know how to talk about it.
>> Jenna McWilliams
>> Learning Sciences Program, Indiana University
>> On Dec 21, 2009, at 7:06 PM, mike cole wrote:
>>> The addition of production to definitions of literacy is always a
>>> good move
>>> in my view, Jay. Reading is not equivalent to writing. In the case
>>> of visual
>>> literacy and museum art, it seems like what is being referred to
>>> is the
>>> reading half. At least i hope so. I managed a D+ in my one
>>> obligatory art
>>> producing class in college (a work later exhibited, by some really
>>> error, in a show of student art which makes one wonder at the
>>> involved on either side of the
>>> process!). I am a hopeless plastic arts producer. But not entirely
>>> illiterate as a reader, finder of meanings.
>>> There is, a few blocks from you apartment, a show at the SD Museum
>>> Contemporary Art by Tera Donavan. I think you will find it as
>>> fascinating as
>>> I did. I plan to take the family during their visit. Donovan take
>>> objects (tar paper, straws, cups, and more) and creates
>>> installations with
>>> thousand of only one object aggregated in the most fantastic ways.
>>> states her goal as wanting to explore the properties of objects
>>> seens as
>>> parts of very large populations rather than as individual objects.
>>> effects she achieves are mind boggling with the play of light and
>>> over surface sufficient to reorder our perceptions in ways we
>>> could never
>>> anticipate.Again, art as tertiary artifact, re-admired.
>>> Since you have written more on time scales, I'll stay away from
>>> the topic in
>>> general; we have agreed too often here to warrant repitition.
>>> But quite specifically, our work in creating the "Fifth Dimension"
>>> was to be
>>> able to study changes in a pre-pared system of activity over a
>>> long time
>>> period (from inception to death) at several scales of time. The
>>> idea was
>>> part of our interest in the failure of "successful" educational
>>> to be sustained-- how did they die and why and how did their
>>> enter in to and respond to the process. Still wrestling with
>>> analysis-- lots
>>> of 5thD's were born and died but others keep being born. Some are,
>>> strikingly like their originals in the 1980's, others have morphed
>>> so that
>>> only a few features remain. The children participants, who are
>>> impossible to track over time are now adults -- i sometime
>>> encounter one at
>>> ucsd. The college participants are parents I sometimes hear from.
>>> recorded in their fieldnotes written at the time. I have some
>>> money salted
>>> away so that "when it dies" (or if i can manage to retire before
>>> doing so
>>> myself) I will have the full range of instances documented and a
>>> lot of the
>>> data in digital form,
>>> so that I can look at that object from both ends of its history. A
>>> preliminary report is in the book, *The Fifth Dimension*.
>>> As to LCHC, that is another matter. It seems to me a certainty
>>> that it will
>>> die. It had a near-death experience a couple of years ago. As a
>>> way of at
>>> least marking its passing, a number of former and current members
>>> of the lab
>>> are in the process of creating a book that traces its origins and
>>> the many
>>> offspring it has generated. THAT collective narrative I hope to
>>> live long
>>> enough to see come into being.
>>> Now if Yuan or anyone would like to see LCHC live, proposals for
>>> how to
>>> arrange that would of course be seriously entertained, and perhaps
>>> even entertaining! I thought I saw a nibble at collaboration on
>>> making XMCA
>>> a more powerful medium the other day, but it turned out to be a
>>> mirage. So
>>> for now, we keep on keeping on.
>>> On Mon, Dec 21, 2009 at 12:07 PM, Jay Lemke <firstname.lastname@example.org>
>>>> Thanks for the link, Mike. Was nice to see someone in the mass
>>>> affiliated with a newspaper no less, arguing for critical visual
>>>> literacy to
>>>> protect us from advertising!
>>>> Of course that is an old idea in visual education circles, and it
>>>> can build
>>>> on the widespread folk-skepticism toward advertising.
>>>> Unfortunately the more
>>>> pernicious effects in ads are probably at subtler levels than
>>>> what basic
>>>> visual literacy skills can foreground.
>>>> "The ability to find meaning in images" is the definition of visual
>>>> literacy used. That seems a little too basic. I think everyone
>>>> finds meaning
>>>> in images, with or without any literacy education. Maybe there is
>>>> an implied
>>>> emphasis on FIND, in the sense of digging below the surface/
>>>> obvious, which
>>>> would be better. But more recent ideas in the field put more
>>>> emphasis on
>>>> visual production relative to interpretation, so I'd probably go
>>>> with a
>>>> definition more like "the skills of making meaning with visual
>>>> for your own purposes", and include in that the meaning-making we
>>>> do with
>>>> others' images by way of interpretation, critique, etc.
>>>> Have you ever noticed that when anyone, docent, tourguide, or
>>>> just me,
>>>> speaks authoritatively about a painting in a museum, that many
>>>> seem to become interested in listening? People generally seem to
>>>> that art images, at least, require some professional
>>>> interpretation or
>>>> benefit from having specialist knowledge (esp. historical).
>>>> People also seem
>>>> to enjoy visual interpretation more than textual. Textual
>>>> interpretation is
>>>> seen as superfluous, even obstructing to enjoyment of the work.
>>>> No one
>>>> really reads literary criticism, or book reviews beyond the "it's
>>>> part. But people are fascinated by the exegesis of visual works.
>>>> The is one
>>>> basis for the popularity of the DaVinci Code and similar popular
>>>> And there is not a word about visual interpretation skills in our
>>>> curricula (meaning as practiced in schools, there are some nods
>>>> in the
>>>> official standards).
>>>> Jay Lemke
>>>> Professor (Adjunct, 2009-2010)
>>>> Educational Studies
>>>> University of Michigan
>>>> Ann Arbor, MI 48109
>>>> www.umich.edu/~jaylemke <http://www.umich.edu/%7Ejaylemke>
>>>> Visiting Scholar
>>>> Laboratory for Comparative Human Communication
>>>> University of California -- San Diego
>>>> La Jolla, CA
>>>> USA 92093
>> xmca mailing list
> *Jay L. Lemke*
> University of Michigan
> (on leave 2008-9)
> xmca mailing list
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