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: http://oulop09.wikispaces.com/
Steve Hutchinson's (workshop organiser) workshop blog: http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/LetsTalkPractice/index.php

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 j.felce@open.ac.uk

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 http://pewresearch.org/pubs/808/writing-technology-and-teens

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 http://www.blogninja.com/hicss07.pdf

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 http://tc.eserver.org/25493.html

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 http://tc.eserver.org/25492.html

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).http://www.scribd.com/doc/15277764/Diary-or-Megaphone-The-pragmatic-mode-of-weblogs

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.http://www.scribd.com/doc/15277768/Thank-you-for-thinking-we-could-Use-and-function-of-interpersonal-pronouns-in-corporate-web-logs
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.http://www.scribd.com/doc/15276171/Lies-at-WalMart-Style-and-the-subversion-of-genre-in-the-Life-at-WalMart-blog

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.