Alan Liu on Transliteracies and Reading English

xposted from my blog.

I was very lucky to be able to hear Professor Alan Liu share his thoughts with us. Interestingly, his thinking seemed to pick up (broadly) on what we were saying
at the Reading Revolution seminar with regards to critical literacy.
Alan notes that we need some kind of framework that can be used to judge the
accuracy of a web site (etc…); a tool for students.

Of course this raised questions about who would judge and who would issue those specific standards. Good question. Alan began talking about the “expert vs. folk problem” and shared with us possibilities for social visualisation – statistics that appear in a visual format and let readers know the history of that page (or window, screen, site, blog, etc…). Alan referred to this as the “pathology” of the page. With this visualisation, readers will have a better idea of the page’s history, how it was created etc… Think of wikipedia and some of the entries that become protected. Alan explained that with the visualisation technique readers would be able to see who edited the page and who had final call on protecting that entry.

While Alan’s talk was firmly focused on the future and what new technology might mean for reading, he reminded us at various junctures, that the history of reading has always dealt with “the new.” Ideas like information overload and browsing have been around since the 17th century: “Ancient writers and writers in the Middle Ages produced so much data that there was a permanent threat of overfilled information storages, which led to the development of new information processing techniques.”
Some other stimulating points that came out of Alan’s presentation:
1) the need to look at the web as an excocentric device rather than endocentric
2) the ‘net is text-centric or what Alan calls “text plus,” (think of all the source-code behind each page)
3)universities should not compete with corporations (because they don’t really have the finances to allow that), rather universities should complement business
4) “media archeologists” who examine what early media might mean for contemporary tools. (Does this mean history is gaining currency?)
5) the “many police” model for information = quality assurance conducted via social networking and social datamining.

Intriguingly, Alan described books as really just mark-up; the look of a book explains a logical relationship between one part of content to another. Wow! Books are just mark-up. That seems to reflect what Cally said lastnight about books just being content holders.

Thanks to Toby for the exciting conversation on machinima and how it fits in with transliteracy…a future paper and presentation in the works…

enjoying the ioct

On July 5th we’ll hear Alan talk on how University English is changing. Also I’ll be presenting on a panel alongside Professor Sue Thomas and author Kate Pullinger. Sue and I will also be running a blogging workshop.