Thursday, 17 December 2009

Curse you Blog! You've distracted me from my work again...

This image is from Martin Weller's prezi on Digital Scholarship Research at:

I reckon he got the idea from our LiDU logo (see left).

Out of interest, and thinking about Helen's earlier comment about kids searching for images rather than documents, I was wondering if there is an application one can use to upload an image and get information about its provenance, eg: in case of the above, who the painter was, when it was done etc.

Someone asked the same Q on Yahoo Answers a year ago and got recommended this:

It still exists but you have to register to use it, and I've already been distracted from this really interesting consultants' contract I'm supposed to be drafting quite long enough!

Monday, 7 December 2009

Problematic digital literacy practices: no.4

I've written about (some might say whinged about!) certain aspects of digital communication activities that intersect unconfortably with more familiar academic practices several times before in this blog. For example, I described the impact of social reporting on my experience of a face-to-face seminar about personal trajectories of practice; I reported on the minor dispute around the use of Twitter amongst participants in the first LiDU seminar; and I bewailed the elevation of public blogs over private community spaces as fora for the discussion of teaching and learning-related issues.

I call these problematic digital literacy practices (PDLPs) because they disrupt my expectations of academic communication. And here is number 4 in the series:

A colleague (not the same one I fingered in the 'lessons from the chalk front' post, who I had to apologise to BTW - even though no-one else knows who he is) sent me an email saying there was a discussion about literacies and technologies going on in an environment called Cloudworks. When I went to see I found a strand entitled 'Literacy' with a few cryptic posts emanating from a discussion that a few people had apparently had somewhere else, which included a link to a slideshow that someone had done which also had 'Literacy'in the title, and some papers that mentioned 'Literacy', but nothing that looked to me like an actual discussion about Literacy and no references to any of the work that I recognise as being foundational to a discussion of literacy in digital environments. (Well there was one reference to Gunther Kress's well-known point that the English word 'Literacy' has no equivalent in most most European languages).

I sent a post to the discussion with a link to the LiDU website & blog and subsequently had a couple of exchanges with John Cook, followed by a series of email alerts containing lists of bullet points from people's slides some of which mentioned literacy but all of which were equally cryptic owing to the fact I wasn't actually part of the discussion, just getting a kind of echo from somewhere. It seems to have gone quiet now.

I want to be clear that I'm not criticising the discussion these colleagues were having. I'm sure it was highly principled - I might have criticised it if I had understood what they were talking about, but lurking around the edges getting glimpses of other people's slides is not good enough grounds for comment. My colleague said I should start my own 'cloud' about Literacy in that environment, but that's not the point. I was trying to join in a 'discussion' I had had my attention drawn to, but it wasn't a discussion, it was the remnants of someone else's interaction. Been and gone.

It was problematic for me as an academic because it left me with the sense that other people were appropriating the term 'Literacy' in a way that I was unable to call them to account for. That's as may be, and it's not a specifically digital issue, but what is specifically digital, is the aura of audience that these environments promote, even though there may be little of rhetorical substance actually being communicated. My colleague told me that Cloudworks has a user base of over 20,000 people internationally. But, even if that is so, why would I want to communicate with 20,000 people in bullet points, when the issue is one that demands sustained debate and the sharing of quite a lot of background knowledge? Crowds aren't wise just because they are crowds.

I would call this, and the other PDLPs, literacy issues, because they combine questions around the types of texts that are involved, with questions about the kinds of social values that these texts carry. Social media in academic settings support academic literacy practices to the extent that they promote argument and reflection on argument, not just by virtue of the number of people they claim to be able to engage.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Painful lessons from the digital chalk-front

Following up some earlier musings about the relation between 'new' social media practices and 'old' academic practices. (I will stop referring to these as 'new' and 'old' from hereon as I fear it makes me look like a relic)....

A colleague just sent me an email drawing my attention to a twitterstream and blog involving students on a course I'm currently directing. Against my better judgement I went and looked to see what they are saying, and yes - it is critical and I wish I hadn't because it sent me home in a bad mood.

Why did my colleague think it a good idea to point out to me that students were complaining about the course in public social media arenas?

The kinds of things they were saying are the kinds of things that students quite often say when they are getting frustrated by feelings of lack of progress, lack of support, lack of peer participation etc. They criticise the course design, the activity (or apparent lack of) of tutors and course director, the university assessment regulations etc. I have a lot of symathy with them, and when these kinds of issues are raised in the course community spaces (discussion forums, emails) I always take them seriously and do my best to respond positively.

So, why do I feel so negative about about having someone outside the course community point out that these criticisms are going on out there in netspace as well? More to the point, why I am so absolutely disinclined to get in and answer the criticisms out there?

Because I guess I think of the course as a community, that inhabits a shared space, and of the public social networks as somehow outside that space. And I feel bitter that the work I put in inside that space somehow becomes insignificant as soon as someone else goes out there and makes our problems public, inviting (as I see it) casual comment and fleeting attention from people who may have nothing invested in solving the problems and every interest in enjoying any controversy that results from them.

This isn't what my colleague or the students who are blogging are doing, of course. They are engaged in generating a different kind of community. But why should this community be more significant, more worthy of attention than the one that the course has been developing over 4 years of quite intense negotiation amongst course developers, tutors and successive cohorts of students?

Is this a microcosm of the tension we have been discussing - between the academy (with its hidebound communities, fossilised values and restrictive practices) and the 'liberated' net-savvy learner with their fast-shifting focus and opportunistic grabbing of attention wherever they can find it?

Friday, 13 November 2009

Sian Bayne's uncanny talk at the Edinburgh seminar

Sian's talk at the Edinburgh seminar 'Uncanny' Literacies - Assessing the new texts made me with my 'literacies perspective' feel a bit like an old-fashioned headless ghost roaming a deserted lecture room clanking its chains and going 'whoooo' at the data projector.

I've heard Sian talk quite convincingly about this notion of the 'uncanny' before, in the context of Second Life, which is a bit spooky and dreamlike (at least at first), here she seemed to be using the expression to refer in a more general way to feelings of unfamiliarity and uneasiness around certain digital communication practices, which I found a bit less convincing as a trope. In fact it was noticeable how readily people in the seminar subsequently took up and recycled the term in jokes and asides, whenever they wanted to allude to some general quality of unexpectedness in a situation or role, whether it was associated with real uneasiness or not. In the end I wasn't sure that the words 'uncanny' and 'literacies' added much to each other - in some ways they almost seemed to be in a kind of conceptual opposition, the one waving excitedly at an unknown space which is thrilling just because it is unknown, the other gravely summoning up the illusion of understanding and control.

On the other hand, I thought that where she took up the question of the 'spatial' metaphor for the internet, implied by our (Mary Lea and my) use of the term 'technologies as sites of practice', contrasting it with the notion of a 'lifestream' made up of flows of 'volatile texts', she opened up an important issue which I'm still trying to get my head round. The 'lifestream' idea was illustrated with examples from the course on digital culture that Sian and Jen Ross have been running as part of Edinburgh's MA in e-learning. I as understand it, a lifestream is an aggregation of digital sources relating to interests and activities that participants in the course have engaged in. Some of these sources may be 'fixed' (eg: blog posts) but others may be dynamic (eg: feeds from other sites that the participant regards as pertinent in some way). A lifestream is therefore subject to constant change, which Sian interprets as a constant re-making of the identity(ies) of the owner.

Aside from the questions Sian herself raised about how these volatile texts can be assessed (in the more mundane though crucial academic context of the course), issues are raised here about the kinds of social action that a lifestream and its re-making of identities might take part in. I guess this was probably the main point of Sian's talk as far as literacy is concerned, but I'm not sure at the moment where this takes my own thinking. She also raised taxing issues about the role of temporality in literacy practices, and about the 'image-like' nature of textual archives like twitterstreams, and implications for reading from them. At one point she said that the students didn't view twitter as 'scholarly', and there was no reason why they should, but I wonder whether that is always going to be the case? At another point in the course, students are engaged in what they call 'virtual ethnographies' of internet communities, which they can represent using an application of their choice. The scholarly and the informal surely are blended together here?

The other seminar participants were certainly engaged by Sian's talk, and the questions and discussion went on almost as long as the presentation itself. I was interested in questions raised about who is represented in a course population which is able and happy to take on the uncertainty and chaos of digital culture as a topic of study - and how lessons from this kind of brave and exciting experiment in pedagogy might be applicable to the more personally threatened learners often found in widening participation contexts.

'Why talk about texts'?

This was blogged in response to Robin Goodfellow's post on the Literacies site and I hope can also be read there. I agree with Andy that new technologies bring forward new ways of expressing academic ideas – and maybe we need to use terms like critical, reflexive, evidence-based, rhetorical etc to describe what is valued about academic ideas, and/or acknowledge that traditions of how ideas are valued and validated can change as in the oral-to-written PhD. I think it will be in discipline and micro-discipline communities that new practices emerge, become visible, and come to be valued, i.e. become part of a social practice and historical tradition. I do also agree with Robin, though, that use of the term 'affordance' is not always helpful – again my personal preference would be to focus on knowledge practice. Ong, I think, talks about writing as both a technology and a practice. In this vein, 'text' is also a slippery term - it is used to mean both specifically written or printed communications (communications using a particular technology), and communication of many kinds viewed through a particular analytical lens (hence 'multimedia text').

To get back to the practices, the 2007 British Library report into the information behaviour of school-age researchers has this on p.46: 'About 40% of UK schools found content in the learning directory by using a Search engine image search... Further about half of US (47%) and EU universities (47%) accessed the learning directory using a Search engine image search.' This is not young people in their personal, social practice but engaged in formal learning contexts. And actually if you have some idea what you are looking for, selecting from images (even images of text) can be faster and more accurate.

There is absolutely no doubt that academic practices are changing - in fact text and what we can do with it is probably changing faster than other modes are being adopted - for me the question is how we reframe in the new knowledge media landscape what is valuable about academic modes of communication.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Next seminar - Glasgow March 1st 2010

We've fixed the date and venue for the next seminar: Monday March 1st 2010 at Glasgow Caledonian University. Places are limited and some of the people who came to the Edinburgh seminar want to come again, so if anyone reading this would like to claim a place please contact me (Robin Goodfellow) at

We're still discussing the programme - when we've finalised it, I'll post details on our ordinary dull website (see Doug Clow's blog) at

Friday, 6 November 2009

'Literacies and Technologies' or 'Why I think we need to keep talking'

I have been thinking about the question Mary H raised about why literacies people should want to talk to technologies people. From a personal perspective, my own interest in literacies comes from a deeply held belief in the central nature of language in learning, particularly in HE contexts, where to be a successful student means engaging effectively in a range of highly nuanced literacy practices across different contexts. The social and contextual nature of language in use is fundamental to understanding literacy as a social practice. So why am I interested in technologies? In short, because any exploration of academic literacies always involves, at some level, an understanding of and possibly more detailed exploration of technologies. It’s probably true that we’ve never been able to understand literacies without looking at technologies e.g. pens, pencils, paper, blackboards, and indeed literacy theorists such as Brian Street and David Barton have, historically, paid attention to these. I’m not sure they named them as ‘technologies’ though and in addition older technologies often became ‘black-boxed’, so familiar to us that we didn’t even notice them as technologies at all. However, this doesn’t pertain to the present situation for two reasons. First, because a whole industry has grown up around the use of, let’s call it ICT in HE, driven at first largely by software companies looking for emerging markets. Second, because in tandem, new professional groups, broadly termed learning technologists are now involved in actively and visibly harnessing a range of technologies and applications for learning. You can no longer talk about learning in HE without paying attention to technologies. For people like me who are primarily interested in learning in institutional contexts, and take a literacies lens to do this, I cannot engage in literacies and learning without paying attention to technologies and the implications of their use for practice.

The question I am asking myself now though is, I think, a more empirical and /or methodological one. How is my literacies approach similar or different from my colleagues who are also examining issues of learning and the Net Generation /Digital Natives? This has been brought very much to the fore for me having read two papers recently, where the authors invited my comments. One was from Laura Czerniewicz from the University of Cape Town and the other was from our own Chris Jones (IET/OU). Laura and her colleagues are drawing on Bernstein and the notion of boundaries in their research on students’ experiences of using ICT. Chris and his group draw on sociological concepts of structure and agency, Actor Network Theory and Activity Theory in reporting on their research. In our publications from the Digital Literacies in Higher Education Sylvia Jones and I draw primarily on the literacies framing but also Actor Network theory and multi-modal theory. What is really interesting for me though is that through these different lens there are remarkable similarities in terms of our findings, even if the ways in which we choose to articulate them through our own theoretical and methodological lens are on the surface rather different. The commonality between our findings lies in the fact that we all highlight the significance of the institution in framing and understanding students’ practices around the use of technologies in learning contexts. As a literacies person I admit to feeling a bit troubled by this because I want to hold on to the literacies perspective and everything it buys me ideologically and epistemologically. I don’t want to lose the focus on textual practice and what that can tell us about issues of meaning making and power and authority in learning contexts. On the other hand I value this coming together with technologists and the different perspectives they bring. I hope they feel the same!

Thursday, 5 November 2009

If Literacy is social practice why do we need to talk about Texts?

I gave a talk at the OU yesterday called 'Literacy in the Digital University' (good title eh?) at which the audience was a mix of people from learning technologies and language & communication backgrounds. It was basically a development of the talk that Mary Lea and I did at the Edinburgh seminar - the slides and paper/notes are here (paper/notes) and (slides).

I took the opportunity to rehearse a critique of some of the discourses of transformation through technology that are prevalent in our university, through its distance learning practices and its connections to the wider 'learning 2.0' community. I tried to counterpose a discourse of academic values and the public mission of universities, using a 'literacies' perspective to look through the technological practices at the social relations which underlie them.

I used a slightly adapted version of Helen's 'Academic Values and Web cultures: points of rupture' table that she based a discussion on at the Edinburgh seminar ( to point up how much we don't know about 'Net' communities, as opposed to 'Academy' ones, and how much we don't know about the potential impact of 'Net' cultures of knowledge on the historical mission of universities to educate in a broad, critical and ideologically-aware sense.

I was a bit surprised myself championing the rather conservative cause of preserving the Academy's practices against the radical (and youthful) iconoclasm of the Net - what would my 1968 self have thought about that I wonder?

But what gave me most cause for thought were some questions of Mary H's ontological kind (see previous post) that came at the end, chiefly from my Learning Technologist colleagues. In particular: If Literacy is 'social practice' why talk about Texts? Why not just talk about social practice?

I think people resist the notion that practices around learning with technologies can be adequately described in terms of textual practice. Partly this is a hangover from the intuitive idea that text really means print, but it also reflects the view that digital communication is real life interaction and can no more be encapsulated in its textual residues than a face to face meeting can be recreated in all its complex interactions from its minutes.

My answer at the time (helped by Mary L) was that we aren't just talking about social practice in general, because we are focusing on practices in the university, which are uniquely defined in terms of texts. This is what a Literacy perspective brings to the better understanding of teaching and learning in these contexts. But as Mary H points out - it is always going to be the case that what we currently call texts are what define practice in higher education? As HE gets more intermingled with other social fields (industry, commerce, the professions, popular culture - see Mandelson's 'Higher Ambitions' framework) and as practice-oriented communication becomes more mutimodal and time-shifted and otherwise dispersed won't the notion of text as a defining characteristic of university practice become less and less relevant?

Well - it will be interesting to see how the 'outputs' of digital scholarship shape up. My money says they'll look pretty textual, even if they are digital.

..and if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck..

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

More thoughts: Some Ontological Issues

The seminar confronted me with some ontological issues about the nature of literacy texts and practices. I position myself as a scholar within the New Literacy Studies, with user knowledge of ICT but not research knowledge so this is the first time I have really sat down to think some of these things through. I am sure a lot of thinking has already been done so pointers and references would be welcome if I am going over old ground. But I would find it useful to have some explicit review of these issues even if there are good existing answers to them that people have thought through.

1 The virtual world often, paradoxically, points up features of the real, material world of print literacy that we have perhaps overlooked in the past rather than changing them. An example is the boundaries of a text (a paragraph, a page, a book, a set of volumes?); how texts change over time, their durability, stability, the contributions of multiple authors, the work they do within social (e.g. legal or medical) systems. How do new technologies change the nature and boundaries of what we have in the past called “the text” and are alternative labels like “document” or “artefact” more useful when we are talking across print and digital domains?

2 Is it misleading to try and apply old metaphors of communication to the new virtual environment such as writing/reading or speaking/listening… are these concepts tied to particular technologies and material circumstances e.g we say that a book “speaks” to us but it doesn’t really – unless it is audio taped. Do we need some new language terms to describe what we are doing in a virtual world (some are already developing – e.g. could you blog offline??)

3 I don't think is useful to characterise printed texts as inert and fixed in contrast to digital texts that are interactive, “speak back to us” and are changed by the machines we type them into. Rather might we think about the "virtuality" of printed texts as well - as objects that change and move and interact with the reader? In particular, are approaches from Science and Technology Studies, including Actor Network Theory, helpful in bridging our understandings of literacy and digital worlds? These emphasise distributed agency (and authorship) co-ordinated action through networks of things and people. This seems to fit easily with digital communication environments, but how about traditional print and oral interactions?

4 When we make comparisons between print and digital media perhaps we take quite contrasting genres as prototypical texts of each medium (e.g. the novel v the spreadsheet) in order to point up the differences. However, there are parallels with each of these genres in the other medium so may be there are more continuities than we think and it would be good to look across different genres and see how they are expressed as the same or different in print and digital environments.

Amy thoughts and comments welcome!!

Thoughts from the first seminar

It has taken me a while to put these thoughts together and post them up but I hope the seminar is still recent enough that they will make sense. I have been following the other postings with interest.

First, I think we missed the opportunity at this first event to introduce ourselves properly and the different academic communities we identify with. I especially thought about this in relation to Gunther when he introduced himself as an “outsider” to both digital research and literacy studies. I understand this to mean that he identifies himself mainly as a social semiotician who is concerned with meaning making through a variety of media and representational systems – whether visual, sound, movement or number. Language based representations are just a sub-set of these and interact and co-exist with the others. We did not take up this challenge to think about multi-modality and how it operates within the academy, how different modes are privileged by different technologies of communication. This might be something we could pursue in subsequent events.

Second thought (raised by Gunther Kress) – it is important to keep in mind the top-down decisions in relation to universities and technologies that are driving the changes that we are documenting – global marketing of HE, changes in view of the role and mission of HE, integration of HE and FE in England etc. industrial pressures to develop new technologies and so on.

It is also important to keep checking our assumptions and making comparisons across settings, since technological conditions and affordances are very different in different contexts internationally. Even within the UK, the working, teaching and learning contexts of Further and Higher Education differ significantly from one another.

Finally, Sian’s presentation, in particular, highlighted for me the significance and challenge of developing forms of assessment that are appropriate to the technologies the students are now using.

I left the first seminar ruminating on the question of why we all would want an exchange of views between IT and literacy people? What do we each expect to get out of such an exchange? For Literacy Studies people I think it is to better understand how reading and writing are changing and what this means for the academy, not just in terms of practices but also academic and scholarly values because the idea of a university is so centrally bound up with traditional print literacy. For the technology people – the purpose might be to better understand the expectations, practices and associated identities that staff and students bring with them to new technological practices in the academy. Also the techniques of micro-analysis of practices and events that literacy people bring to the table could be of use.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Lit vs TEL - a response to Robin

This is more or less copied from my own blog where I posted it several days ago, so apologies for duplication.

Robin makes some good points about the clash of the 'literacies in learning' and the 'technologies in learning' frameworks, and I'm always in favour of surfacing these tensions. We spend far too much time in e-learning trying to pretend it doesn't matter whether we're hardened instrumentalists or dyed in the wool social theorists, and it won't do.

However, I'm not sure ANY of the presentations I heard at the event, with the possible exception of (some bits of) Chris Jones' summing up (hope Chris is blogging this), fitted the charge that we 'simply utilised the term 'literacies' as a descriptor for different kinds of technical practices'. Personally I avoided the term 'literacy' as much as possible in that company, recognising that it has already been comprehensively theorised and to some extent therefore claimed by academics working in a very particular domain. I prefer to talk about knowledge practices, i.e the expression of some presumed personal capacities, preferences and habits in particular situations (I'm interested in the practices and situations, I'm not at all sure how one goes about accessing or even very usefully defining the personal capacities otherwise). By knowledge practice I do not at all mean 'signing up to follow someone's tweets' as a single action in a particular technology-enabled space, but I probably do mean the bundle of actions I perform using twitter and the meanings they have for me, and for others involved.

One problem may be that just as the literacy people are making certain assumptions about 'their' frameworks being widely shared, we too are making certain assumptions about 'our' technology being widely used. For example, putting a twitterstream live behind a speaker is for me so 'normal' that I didn't even stop to think that there might be sensibilities to consider. For any given f2f event of that kind I expect there to be an accompanying 'event' taking place on twitter (not a 'representation' of the 'real' event but another, parallel event). This 'other' is not even necessarily less interesting or engaging than the first (see on the great keynote/harshtag debate - and twestivals, tweetmeets and flashmobs are examples of an originary twitter event breaking out into the 'real'). And bringing the two events into closer proximity through projection has evolved (I now realise) as a means of dealing with several social issues, e.g. exclusion (people not tweeting can at least take part vicariously in that event), respect (tweeting cannot take place behind anyone's back), interaction (questions can be taken from 'the floor' on a much broader basis), equality (people lacking the confidence to speak in public can tweet in public) etc etc.

I was frustrated in Edinburgh (for reasons not at all the fault of the University or our lovely hosts) that I couldn't get online to twitter, and so could not involve the many people outside of the physical situation who I knew were interested in it. In fact, to confess my own technology predelictions, I didn't feel properly 'there' as a result. Had I been tweeting I would not have been failing to engage properly in 'the real': on the contrary, I find tweeting an event for others at least as reflective as writing notes, with the added advantage of bringing other people's reactions and ideas into the live situation.

Before we have appropriated a technology to a personal and social practice, the technology itself seems to be the point (this is Robin's perspective). To the outsider, whether by choice or exclusion, the technology IS the practice. So for my 3-yr old writing is pens. To the insider, the technology is only visible when it becomes a problem (can't get online). The social practices that Robin found objectionable did need surfacing and exploring and negotiating, but to suggest that they were 'simply' technical practices, and that the technical was hijacking the social, is an equally one-sided perspective.

Friday, 23 October 2009

The great LiDU Twitter debate!

Chris Jones put another spoke in the LiDU first seminar wheel (see post Tuesday, 20 October 2009) when he put the #LiDU twitterstream ( up on the projector at the beginning of the plenary session and claimed it was another kind of representation of the seminar. Some of the audience complained that it was not a representation of the seminar as they had experienced it and that it was distracting for those who were trying to have a discussion , which it was, as a debate then arose between those who were tweeting, and those who weren't and didn't see why such commenting had to be displayed for everyone else to read.

My own contribution to the debate was to point out that we had spent several minutes discussing a practice that was relatively peripheral to the ongoing discussion, and that this was a good illustration of the way new digital practices have a tendency to highjack educational agendas. However, I made the mistake of characterising the tweeters in our midst as 'digital natives' with the implication that the rest of us were their parents! This was not well received by at least one of the twitterati!

I've commented before on the way that 'social reporting' activities can disrupt face-to-face interactions and distort the relationships they afford (July 7th This seemed to me to be another, albeit less problematic, example of the same thing. Having said that I have to admit to being not totally displeased when we got an email from Laura Czerniewicz in Cape Town later saying she'd been reading the #LiDU tweets and wanted a copy of the paper that we referred to in our presentation! Clearly twitter has its uses, even for digital dinosaurs....

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

LIT meets TEL

The LiDU seminars were funded in order to bring together people from different disciplinary orientations, specifically applied linguistics and educational technology, to consider the meaning of Literacy in educational contexts which are characterised by the use of digital technologies. In his contribution to the plenary session at the end of the Friday 16th seminar, Chris Jones asked people to identify themselves as 'literacy' or 'technology' - slightly more than half opted for literacy, with a number claiming both. Chris then went on to say that, for him, 'literacy' simply meant the capacity of people to engage in various social and cultural practices around texts and that his interest was in the broader questions around the use of technologies (such as 'network effects').

Needless to say, he was challenged on his association of literacy with individual competence - a number of people in the room had spent most of their academic careers trying to move the literacy and learning agenda beyond this. However, this 'commonsense' view of literacy as a kind of marker of educational achievement does seem to be deeply engrained, and I suppose, in retrospect, wasn't likely to be shifted in a single day, especially when the only actual discussion of the point had occurred very early, and rather cursorily, in the first presentation given by Mary Lea and myself. Thinking about the day now I realise that only ours, of the four formal presentations, drew on a theoretical perspective on literacy as a social phenomenon shaping the nature of practice in digital environments. The others simply utilised the term 'literacies' as a descriptor for different kinds of technical practices.

This is not a criticism of the other presentations. They all had their own theoretical orientations, and illuminating ones at that. But I mention it in order to highlight the challenge for the LITs when talking to the TELs (Technology-enhanced-learning-ites) during these seminars. To get beyond the assumption that everyone knows what literacy means and of course its important but why are talking about it when there are major questions about how people learn with technologies to be answered?

I don't think we (the LIT-ites) are going to get beyond this simply by constantly challenging the technology focus that IDA ("in a digital age") discussions always seem to have. Rather we need to make use of new and existing concepts that foreground the idea of the 'relations' that shape the networking, bookmarking, content-generating, mashing, tweeting, streaming, etc. and the impact that these practices have on the wider social and institutional contexts in which they occur. Relations like 'power' and concepts like 'identity' and 'meaning-making', which belong in literacy studies just as centrally as they do in social psychology, cultural studies, media and communication studies etc. I think that us LITS are going to have to be a lot more convincing about how we deploy them if we are to shift our TEL colleagues away from the idea that digital literacy is what you get the first time someone signs up to follow your tweets!

Monday, 19 October 2009

First seminar Friday 16th

The series began on Friday (16th October) with a seminar at Edinburgh university. Most of the 32 people who had booked places turned up, which was encouraging as you always imagine rows of empty chairs and piles of uneaten sandwiches.
Inital responses also suggested that people found it an interesting and in some cases provocative set of discussions, with even a little controversy creeping in over the activities of the twitterati in our midst (see forthcoming blog post).
Over the next couple of weeks I'll be putting papers, presentations, audios and pictures on the LiDU website ( and reporting on some of the issues that were discussed here.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Academics writing as professionals

Just come from a very interesting talk given by Mary (Lea) about her and Barry Steirer's CETL project on Academics' writing as professional practice.

The substance of what she was saying is reported in their article in Studies in Higher Education: basically that the idea that the writing that academics do can be classed as either 'teaching', 'research' or 'admin' needs to give way to a more nuanced appreciation of the enormous range of texts and genres that have to be dealt with, as part and parcel of academic professional identity.

The kinds of things their informants had talked about were, as well as research reports and teaching material: advice documents for public bodies, evidence for quality processes, audit trails for assessment, expert witness submissions, strategy reports, brochure texts, letters to students, newletters, examiners reports, references, recommendations, case summaries, learning outcomes tables etc.

Add to that a variety of digital media genres: emails, online forum contributions, powerpoint presentations, spreadsheets, online templates, reviewers forms etc.

And add to that again a number of more reflective-type texts that her informants didn't mention: appraisal forms, promotion cases, blogs, diaries etc.

One thing that struck me was their suggestion that the writing academics do is slowly coming to actually stand for the practice that it is supposed simply to represent. For example, the progress form written for a research student actually stands for their progress, for most intitutional purposes, rather than anything they might actually produce, such as a paper published or talk given.

This should be a familiar switch to 'inhabitants' of digital spaces - look at the way that hits on websites have come to stand for quality, electronic 'followers' and 'friends' have come to stand for popularity. Blogs and emails have come to stand for conversation!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Seminar 1: Programme

The relation of new media practices to traditional literacy practices in the academy and the professions.

Friday October 16th 2009 10am-4,30pm
Room 1.26, Paterson's Land, Moray House, Edinburgh University

(university is No.7 on the central area map)]

Papers for the presentations will be available in advance on the Links and Documents page of this website.

10.00 Coffee

10.15 Introduction: Robin Goodfellow (Open University)

10.30 Presentation + discussion: Academic Literacies in the Digital University : Mary Lea & Robin Goodfellow (Open University)

11.30 Presentation + discussion: 'Uncanny' Literacies - Assessing the new texts: Sian Bayne (Edinburgh University)

12.30 Parallel group discussion sessions:

i) Academic values and web cultures: points of rupture. Led by Alison Littlejohn, Lou McGill & Helen Beetham (Learning Literacies in a Digital Age project. Glasgow Caledonian University)

ii) Academics writing and new technologies. Led by David Barton, Mary Hamilton & Candice Satchwell (Literacies for Learning in Further Education project. Lancaster University)

1.30 Lunch

2.30 Presentation and discussion sessions from Edinburgh University research students:

i) Personal, professional and academic voices in online reflection: new literacies for new media practices. Jenn Ross

ii) In the hands of the user: the powerful voice of objects. Michela Clari

3.30 Plenary session: discussants Gunther Kress (Institute of Education) and Chris Jones (Open University)

4.15 Conclusion: Robin Goodfellow (Open University)

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Digital Literacies in Higher Education report - sneak preview!

Mary Lea promised to come back and report on the DLHE project (ESRC) in an earlier post, but I happen to know she's bogged down in lodging data from the project in various databanks at the moment, and as the official report is finished but hasn't appeared on ESRC Today yet I thought I would flag some of its highlights. (Link to follow when it's available).

Mary's report says the research was motivated by the fact that little is known about the digital texts that students encounter in their studies and wider personal lives. In fact quite a lot is thought to be known - they are blogging, facebooking, tweeting, YouTubing, MSNing, texting, and illegally downloading music and videos aren't they? This imagined activity is thought to pose a threat to their ability to carry out more traditional study activities like essay-writing. The project has taken the students side in setting out to discover what exactly they do do with technologies when they are being students - an approach owed to its Academic Literacies grounding, characterised by a vigourous resistance to 'deficit' models of student literateness.

The project has looked closely at the digital texts that students in higher education (and foundation degree bits of FE) negotiate and produce, and at the textual practices that surround their study behaviour, and has found that, by and large, they tend to start with what their teachers tell them to do, and then move on from there. They respond, in effect, to an 'institutional mandate' that is in the process of redefining how knowledge is conceptualised in the university. This foregrounds the digitally-mediated, the use of information from commercial and organisational sources, and personal and professional reflective knowing, alongside more traditional subject-based knowledge.

However, the scope and complexity of the practices that they are developing through their use of digital tools is not being fully represented in the products that they submit for marking. (Many of these assignments are still framed in terms of learning outcomes that have generally been associated with academic writing as it is conventionally thought of. In my own contribution to this research I have been exploring the embedding of academic values such as 'critical/logical thinking' and 'use of evidence' in the course descriptions and assignment rubrics that these students are responding to).

Not everything digital that is institutionally mandated is taken up. The project finds evidence of students resisting engagement with university virtual discussion environments, and sidestepping procedural aspects of academic acountability such as the competion of Personal Development templates.

The report concludes by highlighting the mutability of texts in digital form and the implications of this for approaches to teaching and learning that are still focused on the assessment of final, submitted, products. This emphasis on the textual dimensions of practice is contrasted with perspectives that focus on the technologies and the skills element of practice. The textual lens will remain robust even in the face of the inevitable changes in the tools and technical practices that institutions of higher education adopt as the digital age develops.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Teaching as interface authoring - a new literacy for course designers

Reflecting on my activity as I hurriedly get on with preparing for the next presentation of the online MA course I run at the OU: 'The ELearning Professional' (due in 3 weeks) it occurs to me that authoring teaching material via a technical system like the one the OU uses amounts to a literacy practice in its own right.

Below is an impression of the screen I'm working with:

All the headings on the left are links to bits of text, other websites, tools like forums, blogs, wikis etc. Each has a row of little icons next to it allowing me to change, delete, hide, move, or group the item. I can set any item to become visible to whomsoever I please, whensoever I please. The dropdown listbox at the top lets me change the view - to see what a student might see, for example, or a tutor, or another editor. There are a number of other admin functions I can call on in the menu on the right, like setting 'standard outcomes', or grade reports. I can incorporate news threads, new forums, calendar settings, alerts and subscriptions.

Somewhere under all this are the texts that the students read in order to do the learning that the course offers (the conceptual/cognitive learning that is - there is a lot of practical and social learning to be done in the collaborative areas as well). I have to admit that in all the structuring, designing, editing and re-editing that goes on through this interface (and I'm not the only one manipulating this course material at any one moment - there are OU editors and learning technologists helping me as well) I sometimes lose sight of what the texts actually say! In deciding whether to move this activity from unit a (where it was last year) to unit b (where I think it would be better this year), and in changing the instructions for the online activity that goes with it, to try and ensure more participation, and in redesigning aspects of the interface to conform to new accessibility standards, and in updating external weblinks that have got broken (and most of them do, from year to year) and in doing a dozen other tasks involved in 'delivering' this course, made two years ago ,to a fresh batch unseen learners, it's quite possible that I will forget what it is we are trying to teach about.

Resolutions I made last year, whilst the course was going on, about arguments that need to be clarified, or information that needs to be updated, or voices that need to be heard, or critiques that need to brought out, somehow get sidelined. The more efficient our design becomes, it seems, the more our content fossilises, as we become more and more focused on the appearance of activity and less and less on its meaning.

Friday, 7 August 2009

Forms of Literacy - in School and University

This is a thought I had whilst reading Victoria Carrington & Jackie Marsh, Forms of literacy,December 2008( This document was commissioned as part of the UK Department for Children, Schools and Families’ Beyond Current Horizons project, led by Futurelab.

A colleague passed this paper on to me, with the comment that it is a useful resource for us even though it's school-based and has traces of celebratory rhetoric. By that they meant that it occasionally adopts the slightly breathless tone of the technological visionary – “Knowledge production will be a dominant trend in the decades ahead, fuelled by greater access to participatory networks in which a more diverse range of literacy texts and practices will be used in the construction/recontextualisation of knowledge.”

However, given that it is a report for Futurelab which is usually pretty media-savvy (its Chairman is David Puttnam, celebrated film producer and also Chancellor of the OU, and its cause has been championed in parliament by no less a rhetoricist than Susan Greenfield) most of the discussion is actually quite cautious, erring on the “it is not possible at this moment in time to make firm declarations about literacy in the period 2025-2050” side, rather than the “how curriculum and pedagogy need to be transformed” one.

Apart from the fact that it is a pretty good review of 'new literacy' issues seen from the multiliteracies perspective, what is of particular interest to me is the fact that it is school-based.

They are talking about ‘dissolving boundaries’ between formal and informal learning and between real/virtual and online/offline spaces, and about literacy practices across space and time leading to transformations of texts and practices and ‘challenges to current boundaries between semiotic domains’ just as we in the HE sector are. What occurs to me is that if these major changes to the communication landscape are shaping primary & secondary curricula, what is left for universities to do, in terms of new literacies? How are blurred semiotic domains at HE level different from those that schools are dealing with?
Carrington & Marsh make the customary nod to the critical dimension of literacy and the way texts are imbued with ideologies, but it seems to me that it is chiefly the operational and the cultural (mainly participatory) aspects of communicating with new technologies that the transformed school curriculum is expected to feature. So perhaps this is where literacy in the digital university might find its particular mission – in developing and championing critique and the continuing role of objectivity in the evaluation of knowledge that is produced in participatory networks?

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Links for the 'social reporting as new literacy' post

In case anyone is interested, here are the links to the sites created during the Etienne Wenger workshop that I described in my earlier 'Social reporting' post (below).

The workshop public wiki:
Steve Hutchinson's (workshop organiser) workshop blog:

First seminar

The date and venue for the first seminar has been finalised. It will be at Edinburgh University on Friday October 16th 2009.

The overall theme addressed in this seminar is: The relation of new media practices to traditional literacy practice in the academy and the professions.

Prospective papers and discussion topics include:
  • Academic Literacies in the Digital University (contributors from the Open University)
  • Academic values and web cultures: points of rupture (contributors from Glasgow Caledonian U)
  • Academics writing and new technologies (contributors from Lancaster U)
  • Assessing the new texts (contributors from Edinburgh)

Anyone who would like to attend, who is not already a member of the seminar group, should contact Janice Felce

Friday, 10 July 2009

Research on blogging as writing genre

I did a quick search for research on blogging as a writing genre, for a colleague who is involved in an European project. For interest, here are the main ones I found. If anyone wants to suggest others, put them in a comment to this posting and I'll assemble a larger list later on.

Amanda Lenhart, Aaron Smith, Alexandra Rankin Macgill, Sousan Arafeh, (2008) Writing, Technology and teens, Pew Internet & American Life Project

Susan C. Herring, John C. Paolillo, Irene Ramos-Vielba, Inna Kouper, Elijah Wright, Sharon Stoerger, Lois Ann Scheidt, and Benjamin Clark (2007) Language Networks on LiveJournal, Proceedings of the Fortieth Hawai'i International Conference on System Sciences, January Los Alamitos: IEEE Press

Herring, Susan C., Lois Ann Scheidt, Sabrina Bonus and Elijah Wright. (2004)Bridging the Gap: A Genre Analysis of Weblogs (We)blog Research on Genre Project

Herring, Susan C., Inna Kouper, John C. Paolillo, Lois Ann Scheidt,Michael Tyworth, Peter Welsch, Elijah Wright and Ning Yu. (2005) Conversations in the Blogosphere: An Analysis "From the Bottom Up" (We)blog Research on Genre Project

Cornelius Puschmann (forthcoming) Diary or Megaphone? The pragmatic mode of weblogs. Language in the (New) Media: Technologies and Ideologies, September 3-6 2009, Seattle, WA, USA (accepted, to be presented).

Cornelius Puschmann (forthcoming) "Thank you for thinking we could". Use and function of interpersonal pronouns in corporate web logs. Heidrun Dorgeloh & Anja Wanner (eds.): Approaches to Syntactic Variation and Genre. Mouton de Gruyter.
Cornelius Puschmann (forthcoming) Lies at Wal-Mart. Style and the subversion of genre in the Life at Wal-Mart blog. Janet Giltrow & Dieter Stein (eds) Theories of Genre and the Internet. Walter Benjamin.

Warschauer, M., & Ware, M. (2008) Learning, change, and power: Competing discourses of technology and literacy. In J. Coiro, M., Knobel, C. Lankshear, & D. J. Leu (Eds.) Handbook of research on new literacies (pp. 215-240). New York: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Warschauer, M., & Grimes, D. (2007) Audience, authorship, and artifact: The emergent semiotics of Web 2.0. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 27, 1-23.

Ware, P. & Warschauer, M. (2005) Hybrid literacy texts and practices in technology-intensive environments. International Journal of Educational Research, 43, 432-445

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Social reporting as a new literacy practice

A residential workshop on 'Learning in the Landscape of Practice' run by Etienne Wenger at the OU last week featured a number of facilitators sitting at computers writing running accounts of the workshop activities and posting them to a wiki and blog set up for the purpose. Their computer screens were projected simultaneously onto the walls of the room, so that what they wrote could be observed by the workshop participants as they wrote it.

As well as writing about what was going on, these facilitators also roamed the room taking pictures, which they then embedded into the posts. In addition, a number of the participants used their own laptops to contribute comments, and some kept up a running series of remarks on twitter, which was also being projected onto the walls.

All this ongoing commenting was referred to by the workshop organisers as social reporting. The blog, wiki and twitter spaces were constantly brought into the discussion, and participants encouraged to access them as readers and/or contributors. Whilst the spaces were private to the workshop participants at the time the workshop was going on, there was a lot of discussion about making them public later - I'm not sure what eventually happened about this, I'll give the links later if they are available.

Etienne Wenger had structured the workshop around group activities that were focused on telling stories of 'boundary crossings' between professional practices. His idea was that the stories that emerged from the workshop would lead to further collaborations via the internet, after the workshop was finished. The ongoing narrating of, and reflection on, the workshop activity, was thus a development of what used to be called 'capturing' the knowledge being constructed. But the extent of the activity and its effect on the workshop itself elevated the practice from mere recording to something that ended up impacting on the whole workshop experience.

For example, the social reporting competed with the group activity itself, to be point of focus. People's attention was distracted away from those they were actually talking to, towards the comments being made by the observers on the walls. People who were tweeting or blogging on their own laptops did not pay attention to the instructions coming from the workshop organiser and had to be re-told what to do by other group members. The social reporters hovered round groups pointing cameras, injecting moments of self-consciousness. The group interactions focused round the reporting, putting something together that could be presented, possibly eventually to an unknown audience. The discussion about whether and when to make the workshop wiki public exasperated the web2.0 'old hands' and made the novices anxious.

For myself, I found the social reporting intrusive and thought that it interfered too much with the business of working out for ourselves what the workshop was actually supposed to be for. I could have done with a bit less self-consciousness and bit more intersubjectivity. But it is clearly a fledgling literacy practice that is tune with the contemporary emphasis on doing things together and in public. I suspect that as more workshop organisers become more au fait with web2.0 tools we're going to see (and be made to participate in) quite a bit more of it.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

One ‘literacy’ or many ‘literacies’

Reflecting on why the big singular ‘Literacy’ appears in the title of this seminar series, rather than the more contemporary ‘literacies’, raises a bit of a conundrum, for me, in the way the term relates to questions of social power.

I’ve always understood that the use of the plural form ‘literacies’ (which the Word spellchecker and speech recognition software still refuses to acknowledge) signals an intention to talk about practices, which are inherently collective, rather than skills or competencies - usually seen as accomplishments of the individual.

I’ve also tended to view this shift as part of the general turn to the social in Western societies since the sixties, which I also associate with a kind of leftish, anti-authoritarian and anti-judgemental stance, like that satirised by Sondheim in the song from West Side Story: “society's played him a terrible trick, ...sociologic'ly he's sick”. Taking the monolithic ‘Literacy’ away from The Man and redistributing it amongst the people as ‘literacies’ seemed to me to be eminently within the spirit of a social democratic age.

However, toppling monoliths is also within the spirit of the more materialistic and individualistic neo-liberal age that we currently find ourselves in, and what has replaced the ‘gold standard’ view of literacy isn't so much a new awareness of the relation between textual practices and cultural capital, but instead a fascination with the different technologies of communication and how to master them for the purpose of capturing attention.

So now I find myself resisting the very democratisation of ‘literacies’ that once seemed so politically right (on). The Man has re-appropriated the term in order to sell us our very own choice of soapbox.

Which is why the time now seems right to resuscitate the old singular form ‘literacy’ (although perhaps without the capital L this time) for our investigations into practice in the digital university. Without trying to set up a new gold standard for communication we can still argue about whether there are distinct forms of cultural capital associated with specific forms of textual practice in higher education communities, and whether these forms of textual practice can contribute to the public, as well as the private, good*. It is about (the whole question of) literacy in the digital university, not just the practices individuals get involved in.

* I’ve been reading Calhoun (2006) The University and the Public Good, Thesis Eleven, 84, 7: 7-43.

Monday, 29 June 2009

As someone who has purchased or rated Literacy Theory in the Age of the Internet by Todd Taylor, Amazon thinks I might like to know that Assessing New Literacies: Perspectives from the Classroom (New Literacies and Digital Epistemologies) is now available. I can order mine for just $99.95 by following the link below.

Assessing New Literacies: Perspectives from the Classroom (New Literacies and Digital Epistemologies) Anne Burke & Roberta Hammet

$100! Any chance that new literacy practices might engender some new publishing practices?

Actually if you read the small print there is a paperback available for $35, but it's still a lot to pay even if the focus on assessing young people's new media practices is intriguing. Any hints as to whether it's worth forking out for would be much appreciated.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Digital Literacies in HE - ESRC Report

I am head down in writing the ESRC report at the moment . A ridiculous task, trying to synthesise the project into 5,000 words, including all the mandatory parts required by the ESRC. Says something about literacy practices!
But I just wanted to flag up the 3 key themes which have emerged from our data analysis:
  • texts, technologies and digital literacy practices
  • digital literacies and the institutional context
  • issues of student identity

more soon.......

LfLFE remarks

I've also been working through Improving Learning in College - Rethinking Literacies across the curriculum from the Literacies for Learning in FE project (£20 from Amazon - I paid for it myself as a contribution to cost-cutting at the OU, hope Martin Bean is grateful).

This is a whole book (200+ pages) reporting on an intensive 3-year research project so I haven't been able to do much more than dip in and out, for the moment, but here are my margin notes so far, for what they are worth:

* p.19 the research focuses particularly on written language - as might be expected from applied linguists - I've been arguing for a view of online communication as written language for some time, mainly in response to the dominant view in online learning of it as interaction (the same as F2F only without bodies). It is getting more complicated though - multiple modes are increasingly prominent (even though, for the moment, written text remains king, in our virtual classrooms at least).

* p.19 Literacy as a 'resource for learning across the curriculum' - yes but let's not forget that resources have constraints as well as enablements. Literacies tie you into power relations.

* p.78 Different constructions put on the concept of 'essay' & the relevance of these practices to students who were being prepared either for further study or for a specific occupation. The differences between the FE and HE contexts recur continuously in this research and make me wonder if we really can talk about the 'Digital University' as an overall idea embracing all contexts of post-school education? Is there a sharp and necessary distinction between preparing someone for an occupation and advancing their education?

* p.88 the 'doubling of literacy practices in order to provide evidence for assessment' refers to adding college-based reading and writing activities which are for assessment purposes only, to the situated literacies of occupational contexts like being a waiter in a restaurant. Do these college-based academic literacies only serve assessment purposes? Haven't they got a learning purpose too - something to do with meta-description (I remember a paper by Diana Laurillard on the different kinds of learning in education and 'real life' - there's a summary of one of her talks on this on the MIT TLL site).

* p.90 'the learning log as a genre that uses features of style and design that are unlikely to be encountered elsewhere' - much like the essay, in fact, once you are out of the study context. But, back to the previous point, these formal literacy practices should surely be serving something other than a hoop-jumping purpose.

* p.121 In terms of changing practice, the research did not find any lecturers developing the 'practices involved in becoming and being a student' - these seems to me to relate to the LLiDA comments about focus on learning development as opposed to learning content.

* p.125 Categorising changes in practice in terms of college-based, work-based and 'border' practices became more problematic as the project progressed. Like the broad distinction between 'academic' and 'vernacular' literacies? In the DLHE project we have also had difficulties with the notion of 'boundaries' between literacy practices and spheres of activity (eg: home and study).

*p.170 ... but some sort of bordering processes are at play... and the interface between formal and informal learning contexts is clearly a framing issue for the digital university and a key focus for the Literacy in the DU seminars.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

LLiDA Arrives!

The Learning Literacies for a Digital Age project (LLiDA) have published their substantial report (84 pages) on attitudes to, and provision for, 'literacies of the digital' in UK higher and further education institutions. You can download the whole thing or just the summary, conclusions and recommendations here.

The title 'thriving in the 21st century' might be a bit glib, but it's a pretty impressive piece of work, and their website with a number of case studies from different institutions also makes interesting browsing. Here are some of the notes I made in the margin while I was reading through:

* p.4 I agree that Digital Scholarship is poorly communicated. I think that is because no-one really knows what it means yet. In the OU (probably like many other universities) it's part of the current strategy jargon, but as we haven't yet satisfactorily distinguished scholarship from research or other kinds of academic practice its hard to know exactly what doing it digitally does or doesn't add. (One thing some of my colleagues seem to be clear about is that it has something to do with getting professional kudos out of writing blogs rather than journal articles - but there must be more to it than that!)

* p.4 (the 'framework of frameworks') Critique doesn't appear in the academic practice box. I think it should (I'm writing something about academic critique in the context of the Digital Literacies in Higher Education research at the moment and the topic is likely to feature fairly prominently in my postings to this blog for a while).

* p.6 they observe that information literacy approaches are mainly to do with evaluation of sources & don't really deal with communicating and sharing ideas - I think this is an aspect of digital literacy that academic practice should be engaging with seriously as 'academic' ideas are the whole point of universities aren't they?

* p.18 the lamenting of learners' lack of criticality makes an important point, even if it does look a bit like another kind of deficit model. It isn't only learners who lack criticality in this managerialist age.

* p.18 the list of present trends in changing technologies has too many established practices 'giving way' to gimmicks (online journal articles are giving way to blogs and tweets? As if)

* p.21 they point out that few of the paradigm-breaking scenarios for the future that they have come across (eg; online reputation may become more important than formal qualifications, or academic knowledge may become irrelevant in a society focused on use-value) are taken seriously in the studies they review. But our colleagues in the Literacies for Learning in Further Education project are making a strong case for the importance of 'useful' (as opposed to academic) knowledge, and vernacular literacies at this level. Thin end of the wedge?

* p.28 a 'key feature of the context for this study' is that learning literacy or learning to learn mean something different from academic literacy or study skills. The difference is located in the gap between formal and informal learning. I'm not sure what this is really saying. Most (not all) of the work described in the LLiDA case studies does seem to be concerned with skills. These cases are analysed on * pp.41-42 and one of the conclusions of the analysis is that 'literacies are more prominently or more self-consciously applied by teachers of applied subjects and applied skills' and that there may be other areas of relevant practice where the term literacy just isn't used. Very important point in my view. Like other dimensions of ideology, literacy appears as commonplace, everyday, taken-for-granted.

* p.48 the 'real world' differentiation between learning support and academic practice is associated with the relative absence of input to learning support from academics in specific modules or courses. Writing across the Curriculum and Writing in the Disciplines researchers have been pointing this out for years, haven't they? It's interesting to me how little writing features in the discussion of new literacies - almost as though we are afraid to tar our shiny digital focus with the old-fashioned biro of academic literacy (or, god forbid, composition!)

* p.55 'academic staff may be used to giving feedback around course content but not around an individual learning development agenda'. Indeed, the OU used to have distinct 'tutor-counsellors' whose job was to to do this, supplementary to the teaching provided by associate lecturers who mainly marked essays.

*p.55 a 'discourse of scholarship, innovation and reflective practice' IS a literacies agenda isn't it?

* P.71 'the idea of academic communication as taking a stance' - yes this is definitely something I'd like to follow up as it's clearly not just about taking a stance but about the kind of stance it is and who may be convinced by it. The question what is the distinctive contribution that academic knowledge(s) and practice(s) might make to the shaping of communications and the workings of power in the digital age is a key issue in the emergence of a new literacy for the digital university.