New literacies, the topic of today’s book A New Literacies Sampler edited by Colin lankshear and Michele Knobel, is relatively a new movement that appeared a few decades ago. Proponents of this movement include celebrated scholars such Colin Lankshear and Michele Knoble (whom I had the privilege to have in both my MAEd and Doctoral committees), James Paul Gee, Brian Street, Katherine Schultz, Glynda Hull, among many others . These scholars study literacy from a sociocultural perspective viewing literacy as a social and cultural practice.
As Lankshear and Knobel argue in A New Literacies Sampler, viewing literacies through a sociocultural lens means understanding reading and writing within the social, political, economic, and cultural contexts they are part of. In other words, reading and writing can only be understood within the social practices informing them. Each text, as the authors contend, has its own context and can be read differently in different contexts and by different people. To illustrate this point, Lankshear and Knobel provide the example of the Bible. A Christian fundamentalist reads it a certain way while a libertarian priest reads it in a different way.
Lankshear and Knobel associate the notion of literacies with the two different mindsets: industrial physical mindset and post industrial cyberspacial mindset. People subscribing to the earlier mindset view the contemporary world as being the same world that existed during the industrial era only now it becomes more technologized and digitally sophisticated.
On the other hand , people with the second mindset hold a different view of the contemporary world viewing it as radically different from any world we have ever known and this difference is attributed mainly to the different new ways of being, acting, and engaging with the environment that digital technologies have provided us with. The authors further argue that without the proper mindset , people ” will approach the tools and environment of the digital technology revolution in inappropriate ways.”
In coming up with a definition of what constitutes a new literacy, Lankshear and Knobel draw on the dichotomy of web 1.0 and web 2.0. While the ethos of web1.0 are based on notions of centralized, official, expert-based and top-down classification management systems; web 2.0 celebrates features such as participation, collaboration, collective wisdom, non-expert bottom-up classification management systems. Accordingly,
the more a literacy practice privileges participation over publishing, distributed expertise over centralized expertise, collective intelligence over individual possessive intelligence, collaboration over individuated authorship, dispersion over scarcity, sharing over ownership, experimentation over normalization, innovation and evolution over stability and fixity…the more we should regard it as a new literacy.
The book also provides a wide range of examples typifying these new literacies from video games, blogging, fan fiction writing, using websites to take part in in shared practices, and more.
Contents of the book
- Chapter 1: Sampling “the new” in New Literacies, by Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel
- Chapter 2: “You Won’t Be Needing Your Laptops Today”: Wired Bodies in the Wireless Classroom, by Kevin M. Leander
- Chapter 3: Popular Websites in Adolescents’ Out-of-School Lives: Critical Lessons on Literacy, by Jennifer C Stone
- Chapter 4: Agency and Authority in Role-Playing “Texts”
- Chapter 5: Pleasure, Learning, Video Games, and life: The Projective Stance, by James Paul Gee
- Chapter 6: Digital design: English Language Learners and Reader Reviews in Online Fiction, by Rebecca W. Black
- Chapter 7: Blurring and breaking through the Boundaries of Narrative, Literacy, and Identity in Adolescent Fan Fiction, by Angela Thomas
- Chapter 8: Looking from the Inside Out: Academic Blogging as New Literacy, by Julia Davies and Guy Merchant
- Chapter 9: Online Memes, Affinities, and Cultural Production, by Michele Knobel and Colin Lankshear
- Chapter 10: New Literacies, by Cynthia Lewis