Tuesday, 3 November 2009

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.


  1. "..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"

    Indeed. I have just been reading about the government's new strategy for Higher education: 'Higher Ambitions' (http://www.bis.gov.uk/policies/higher-ambitions) in the Guardian (Nov 4th p.11). It seems to be simultaneously attacking elitism in teaching (hooray) and promoting it in research (boo). The Guardian says its raises interesting questions about the entire point of university education, and it certainly doesn't look to me like a framework for an 'academic' education anywhere except in the Russell group unis.

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  3. Mary Lea's comment has been moved to the main blog for 06 November.