My Transliterate Toolbox

Here is a screencast talk about my transliterate methods of creating works of
electronic literature:

My Transliterate Toolbox from Christine Wilks on Vimeo.

Links to the works and sites featured in the talk:

Software mentioned in the talk:

The Winner is…

In 2004, the Nigeria Prize for Literature was established to promote writing, literacy and good reading culture among Nigerians. The prize, open only to published works, is an annual literary competition to honour the author of the best book of the current year or the previous three years. The prize rotates amongst four literary genres—prose fiction, poetry, drama & children's literature. The Nigeria Prize for Literature bestows public recognition and a monetary award of US$50, 000 on the winner.

This year no winner emerged for the 2009 Literature Prize. Spokesperson for the panel of judges for the literature prize, declared that none of the submitted works deserved to win. Interestingly, nine works of poetry had earlier been shortlisted for the prize.

The announcement has sparked an online debate amongst Nigerians at home and abroad. Bloggers, journalists and writers themselves have used cyberspace to voice their condemnation of the judges’ decision. Molara Wood, writer and journalist in her piece titled ‘Time to dismantle this sham literature prize’ and published in Next, calls this year’s award event a “disgrace”.

I have not seen any copy of the shortlisted books. But I do know that the books were self published. During the inaugural edition of the prize, in 2004, the judges also decided against awarding the prize because of the poor quality of the three shortlisted works (also self-published). Unfortunately, the prize excludes Nigerian living abroad.

The prize saga exposes the problems of book publishing in Africa. In my PhD research, I am looking at these problems and how the internet is changing the way people read and write. I look forward to the findings, which would reveal just how transliterate Africans have become.


Transliteracy and Me

Holdinghands2 We go everywhere together, do transliteracy and me.  We read books together, browse the
internet, go to the cinema, shop, people watch, enjoy art, listen to Debussy…
we do pretty much everything hand in hand, do transliteracy and me!


Extrapolating meaning from a variety of coded signals – from
text to hand gestures – is what enables me to do my job, engage in social
networking online and know from my partner’s face when it is my turn to do the
washing up.  It may all sound
mundane, but actually, transliteracy is an every day fact of life.


Professionally, I have to be extremely sensitive to
different levels of transliteracy. 
I was introduced to the concept whilst studying on De Montfort
University’s MA in Creative Writing & New Media, as it applied to my
creative work.  Since graduating, I
have moved on to create online resources to amplify conferences and convey
training courses, which involves considering the transliteracy of my audience so
that the resources I produce are intuitive and accessible.  I also have to be highly digitally
transliterate myself to navigate all the different tools and platforms
available when choosing the best ways to present my content.  The concept of transliteracy is
therefore fundamental to what I do.


For me, if there is some form of mutually understood code to
a set of signals, then it constitutes a literacy.  This is what allows us to include signing and orality in the
definition of transliteracy as:
“…the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools
and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and
film, to digital social networks.”


Unfortunately, the word “literacy” is itself a coded sign,
with a whole set of mutually understood connotations and connections that make
it difficult for us to separate it from text.  The tight-knit relationship with the verb “to read” closely
aligns literacy with sight-based activities, whilst our social emphasis on
literacy also marks it out as a product of education, rather than an innate or
deducible skill.  These deep-set
cultural ideas about literacy make it difficult to explain transliteracy as the
movement across a broad landscape of communication codes including, but also
beyond text. 


Text is still very much the gold standard as far as literacy
is concerned.  I nearly cried when
I recently heard an academic at a conference explaining that students of the
future could be “a-literate”, by which he actually meant “not text-literate”.  “Why would students need to be able
to write a scientific methodology when they could just video the experiment
taking place and upload it?  As a
record of the methodology it will be more accurate!”
he argued.  Of course, he
was absolutely right, but his choice of language suggests that the lack of
text-literacy equals a complete lack of literacy, which is obviously completely
contrary to the argument of transliteracy.


My question going forward is whether accepting the notion of
transliteracy as the ability to move between types of literacy will enable us
to be less prescriptive about what constitutes a “literacy” or will our binding
to text-orientated language restrict us? 
Do we need to alter our definition to move away from the words “reading”
and “writing” to be replaced by “comprehending” and “creating” in order to be
more inclusive to the less graphical literacies?  And how will our understanding of transliteracy inform our

Personal Transliterations of Transliteracy

Typing "transliteracy" into my Word document elicits a wavy green line though "no alternatives were found." But are there alternatives? For those of us working, thinking, learning, reading, writing, teaching, creating in the 21st century are there (adequate) alternatives?

Continue reading

CFP: Transliteracy Conference 9 Feb 2010, Phoenix Square Digital Media Centre, Leicester, UK

The first Transliteracy Conference will take place at Leicester's new Phoenix Square Digital Media Centre on Tuesday 9 February 2010. 
This one-day event offers an opportunity for academics, artists,
business people and practitioners to share discoveries, ideas, and
creative works that amplify and augment transliteracy research. Themes to be explored include:

  • transliteracy and libraries
  • transliteracy and the arts 
  • transliteracy in education 
  • transliteracy in communications 
  • transliteracy in the workplace 
  • transliteracy and transdisciplinarity
  • transliteracy in action – examples of transliterate works, like digital fiction, networked arts projects, or library resources.

The Call for Presentations
invites 250 word abstracts. Presentations should be 10-15 minutes in
duration, and can be used to show work or deliver a short paper. Deadline for Abstracts:  1 December 2009

More information.

“Transliteracy is becoming the new cultural capital” The Unquiet Librarian

In her blog The Unquiet Librarian, Creekview High School librarian Buffy Hamilton writes that "transliteracy is becoming the new cultural capital", continuing:

"As leaders in our school communities, a role we should be embracing,
let us blaze the trail to create a culture of inquiry that encourages
students to use these literacies as a lens for understanding more
deeply how multiple kinds of texts function within our society. Who
better to wave the banner for transliteracy than school librarians?"

Read the whole impassioned piece at Refuting Inertness or My Response to “Where Are the Others?” (18 October 2009).

TRG launches today!!!

Since transliteracy research began at DMU in 2005 under the umbrella of PART (Production & Research in Transliteracy), group members have produced a significant range of projects, events, presentations and publications, stimulating an informal research network around the theory and practice of transliteracy.

Sue Thomas and Kate Pullinger have now established The Transliteracy Research Group with the aim of focusing PART's work yet more closely. TRG will continue to draw in a broad coalition of theorists and practitioners, both from DMU and other international institutions and organizations, whilst continuing  to develop our already strong links with business, local community, and the broader cultural sector. A major strength of transliteracy events at DMU is that participants have come from academia, the arts, information sciences, pedagogical researchers, and the creative industries, and this has impacted in many different areas.

The Transliteracy Research Group (TRG), is a research-focussed think-tank and creative laboratory.  The public face of the group resides here, on this new blog. It will be run by Thomas and Pullinger, with regular contributions from the following De Montfort staff, Phd students, and graduates of the online MA in Creative Writing and New Media:  Tia Azulay, Heather Conboy, Gareth Howell, Anietie Isong, Jess Laccetti, Kirsty McGill, and Christine Wilks.

Please join us as we develop this new field of academic research. You can contribute via comments to the blog or join the community 'Transliteracy Notes', designed by Gareth Howell.

As well as the new research group, we would like to bring to your attention a new resource, the Creative Writing and New Media Archive, an archive of all the Guest Lectures given during the four years of the online MA in Creative Writing and New Media. This archive contains lectures from theorists and practitioners as varied as Christy Dena, Rita Raley, Alan Sondheim, Caitlin Fisher, and John Cayley.  Created by CWNM graduate and digital artist Christine Wilks, this resource will be of value to practitioners, students and academics with an interest in transliteracy, digital fiction, digital art, e-poetry, and cross-media.  Please feel free to use this archive and discuss it in 'Transliteracy Notes'.

We will be hosting a day-long Transliteracy Conference on Tuesday 9 Feb, 2010, at the brand-new Phoenix Square Digital Media Centre, Leicester, UK.  Please watch for our Call for Presentations which we will be sending out next week.

Transliteracy Slideshow by Bobbi Newman

I heard about this site via a Google Alert. Librarian Bobbi Newman writes
"I haven’t been able to stop thinking about transliteracy and how important the concept is for libraries and librarians. I’ve created a slideshow I hope conveys the message and is easy to share." She's produced a page of information about transliteracy and a really good slideshow. Thanks to Bobbi for allowing me to share it here.

Will Google Wave make us more transliterate?


Google Wave arrives this week. I requested an invitation months ago but haven't heard yet whether I'm in the select few of the rumoured first 100,000 public invites. There's lots of excitement afoot, though, and on Twitter you can read it in many languages, which is especially pertinent since word has it that soon Google Wave will translate for you in real time. Imagine! And that's just one of many new functions we've never seen before.

People expect big things of Google Wave. Will it change literacy as we know it? I do think it's likely to make users more transliterate. Here's an excerpt from the Google Wave About page which explains some of what is really different about this evolutionary moment in the history of email:

What is a wave?

A wave is equal parts conversation and document. People can communicate and work together with richly formatted text, photos, videos, maps, and more.

A wave is shared.
Any participant can reply anywhere in the message, edit the content and
add participants at any point in the process. Then playback lets anyone
rewind the wave to see who said what and when.

A wave is live.
With live transmission as you type, participants on a wave can have
faster conversations, see edits and interact with extensions in

…If you can't get your head around it, try watching the developer video. It's over-long and very detailed, but most of the information can be found in the first 15 minutes or so.