I’ve been thinking about web literacy (or web literacies) on and off since I posted a diagram version of Michelle Levesque’s helpful first efforts.
The post-it note arrangement above is the result of a burst of creativity following a migraine earlier. The structure was prompted by some things mentioned by Helen Beetham at a couple of JISC events earlier this week.
Since completing my doctoral thesis on digital and new literacies, I’ve been thinking a lot about how educators can use my work in a practical way.
In Chapter 9 of my thesis I come up with eight ‘essential elements’ of digital literacies, abstracted from the literature. I’ve presented these in various forms, my most popular slidedeck being available here.
After seeing me present on these essential elements, people tend to ask me one or both of the following questions:
Which is the most important element to focus upon?
How can I develop these in practice?
I’m helping with the second question through my iterative e-book, The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies, which I’ve just started (and you can buy into). The first question, however, about relative importance and focus has been bugging me.
On the one hand, I want to say that all of the elements are equally important – but that the relative priority that should be given to each will depend upon context. That’s true, but it feels like a bit of a cop-out.
So, after spending some time visualising Mozilla’s first attempts at defining web literacy, I think I’ve hit upon an organising concept: the remix.
Literacy is all about reading and writing. If we take ‘reading’ and ‘writing’ metaphorically (as we must when moving into the digital realm) then these become, loosely, understanding and processing and creating and applying.
This sounds a lot to me like remixing.
I’m going to be thinking about this further. It will form a central theme to my e-book, and I’ll be using it as an organising concept for my TEDx Warwick talk in March. 🙂
In a move that will no doubt shock known world, I’ve decided that first-ever journal article will be both a collaborative venture and cock a snook towards traditional subject disciplines. Provisionally entitled Seven types of ambiguity and digital literacy I’m co-authoring it with my Ed.D. thesis supervisor Steve Higgins. Allegations that I’m doing so to prove originality in my research ahead of my viva voce by producing an article from an intended thesis chapter are, of course, completely unfounded.
I’m not going to give an overview of the entire article (for obvious reasons) although it will be published in an open-access journal. Suffice to say that we’re introducing the idea that terms such as digital literacy and digital natives/immigrants exhibit a ‘trajectory of ambiguity’ through which they pass on the way to becoming what Richard Rorty calls ‘dead metaphors’.
To prevent you having to go back and do Philosophy and Linguistics 101 I’ll remind you that the denotative aspect of a term is its surface or primary meaning. The connotative aspect of a term is its secondary, or implied, meaning. In the article, which features the overlapping diagram above (I’m not allowed to call it ‘Venn’, apparently) we’re arguing that there are three distinct phases through which terms pass. Whilst they never completely shed their connotative aspect the edge to the right of ‘Productive ambiguity’ is where the dictionary definition of terms reside. Generative ambiguity tends to be ‘blue skies thinking’, Creative ambiguity discussing and debating the definition of a term, and Productive ambiguity putting it into practice in various contexts.
You’ll be delighted to learn that we’ve done a sterling job in making the article itself ambiguous, situating it in the phase of Creative ambiguity. “Be the change you want to see,” “walk the walk,” etc.