Thursday, October 8, 2009

Literacy: A matter of Decoding or UNDERSTANDING?

Being the fabulous and dedicated student that I am, I checked the syllabus to see the question to focus on for this week. This seemed particularly, embarrassingly un-blog-like, as it appears (from my SMALL amount of exposure to the delightful genre of the blog), that blogs are places for random, delightful, genius ephiphanies that strike you out of nowhere, as you sip your coffee in the morning, profoundly and deeply. Unfortunately, I have ten minutes set aside in a very packed schedule to "type my blog for P650", so this was what happened, the pure, honest, truth.

So, what, my friends is NEW MEDIA LITERACY?

I'd say we've all hit "what is new media" about three thousand times, so I think I'll skip, conveniently, to the last word in the concept . . . LITERACY.

I found the quick history from "reading and writing" (more psychological in tone) to "literacy" (more sociological in tone) enlightening, and, shockingly, during my three semesters at IU studying Literacy, Language, and Culture, no one has made the shift quite this clear. Here are some of the main distinctions or controversies, as I see them, relating to the definition of literacy:
-Is literacy merely a matter of decoding and encoding words?
-How is literacy linked to power?
-In, ever-broadening and liberal defintions, is literacy just a synonym for competency?
-What new literacies are being called for and created in relation to new technologies? (Is "literacies" a better way to think about than "literacy"?)
-Are critical literacy skills the "highest" form attainable?
-How are literacies linked to a person's identification with particular groups? (Socio-cultural, ideological, generational, etc)

For me, literacy is about communication . . . about meaning-making. Even when I wrote in my journal in the fifth grade about my crush on the deeply handsome Michael Chumley (his brown eyes could totally melt you), I was attempting to make sense of my own new feelings, a communication of self to self so to speak. What this means in the context of new media, which is so often-touted for its networking, social-connecting, participatory nature, could very well be profound. Maybe the way literacy will look when wearing the garment of new media will be the way literacy always wanted to look, that sexy little red dress that fits just right.

On the other hand, maybe new media is the sweatpants and t-shirt version of literacy, the kind of literacy that feels best in an informal setting, just hanging out with friends . . .

1 comment:

  1. Yes, you're quite right about the conflict of exploring something like blogging in the context of a course -- on the one hand for a course we need to make ties to the course objectives but on the other hand we betray some of what blogging is really about (i.e., the t-shirt and sweatpants of academic work). I think about this a lot in respect to the course but have been pleasantly surprised with how everyone is towing the line between the two objectives... I'm not sure if this would be the case in an Undergraduate course or in a large course... It will be interesting to see who else starts to incorporate blogs into the syllabus...