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?

Deeply involved with transliteracy via Sue's shared first forays and my own ph.d research I  wonder whether rather than alternatives to "read[ing], writ[ing] and interact[ing] across a range of platforms, tools and media
from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and
film, to digital social networks," there are reiterations. And, with each reiteration or development there is something else added. What is added might be the form of technology (now perhaps more specifically including Twitter, Facebook, in-car GPS devices, text-start car starters, wireless parking meters) or perhaps in the way we "think" about transliteracy.  Reading a recent paper by Susie Andretta, transliteracy, is currently primarily confined to  "the domain of Communication and Cultural Studies."  I suppose a recent incremental reiteration for me, has firmly shifted transliteracy into education, pedagogy and learning.

In my current position as a lecturer at Grant MacEwan University in Edmonton, Canada, I'm eager to help my new students not only navigate English literature and grammar but explore the effects of technology and participation on their learning and understanding.  Transliteracy, for me, has always included a notion of simultaneity; having the ability to move seamlessly across different modes, information and technologies. But now, at least more clearly for it, it also includes a reflective practise. What does having this ability mean? How does one learn differently by crossing from a university physical newspaper read during class to blogging about an article of interest and linking to the online version? Ensuring that we reflect on our transliterate practise models critical thinking and meta-cognition for ourselves and our learners. This move keeps transliterate practise (with an "s") firmly in the verb and active sense.  I see transliteracy as an invitation to engage, not only with technological developments and literacy practises, but also with knowledge and knowledge production in general. Transliteracy, like thought and understanding, is constantly undergoing metamorphoses; changing from objective and "scientific" frameworks to more personal, subjective understandings and then back into that feedback loop. But perhaps it is that the feedback loop is enacted (at least for me with a pedagogical slant), that stands as evidence of transliteracy?

NB: Image from Joe Wikert's Publishing Blog.


9 thoughts on “Personal Transliterations of Transliteracy

  1. Hi Jess,
    Your post strikes a chord with me. I had a twitter exchange with Sue recently where I said:
    If transliteracy = transitional literacy it would work better for me.
    I also said: If you see literacy as a techno-social open-system then why not non-linear phase transitions?
    For me these transitions seem to be what you are saying when you talk about feedback loops in your post. The way I read you post would indicate a shared way of thinking transliteracy as a constantly transforming set of practices and interpretations tied to technological development.
    Of course the problem word here is literacy as it still seems so closely tied to the written word to also refer to wireless parking meters.

  2. Hi Simon,
    Thanks for your interesting comment.
    I think you understand what I’m trying to convey – the notion of constant (as long as we’re aware) transformation/transition/development.
    I wonder if the problem is with the “word” literacy or rather our (communal) interpretation? Literacy, like our notions of transliteracy, can change to accommodate technological and societal changes. I wonder if linking the notion of literacy (or transliteracy) too closely with technology is where the difficulty arises. If we talk about knowledge and “reading” as an interpretive, participatory and critical thinking ability (more than letters on a page) and how that is informed by what we “read,” would transition not be an obvious element?
    I suppose this issue is highlighted for me in my classrooms and in trying to encourage students to think beyond the boundaries of each technology (books, papers, laptops) and reflect on processes.
    If literacy is still the problem word for you, what would you suggest in its place? And, by suggesting a new word don’t you think we’re undoing the notion that transliteracy (at least in my opinion) is incremental and builds on what came before…?

  3. Jess, I don’t disagree with you that transition is an obvious element. I think it is a key way of thinking about and understanding our use of technology and the practices that develop around them.
    It was my point that I’d already suggested this before, albeit in simplistic terms. I’m slightly surprised that this is your understanding of transliteracy as I’m aware from my twitter conversation with Sue that she definitely disagrees with this notion that transliteracy is processual and incremental in character.
    TBH I don’t propose to suggest any other word. I think the abilities transliteracy describes (as anability) are covered by media, design and communication studies already.
    The kind of processual and transitional developments you mention I believe are more interesting and open to investigation from a number of perspectives.

  4. Simon, I’m just wondering about the idea that the transliterate abilities are covered by media, design and communications…are they? Are those subjects as inclusive as transliteracy aims to be? Though each field might share with transliteracy the notion of incremental developments/transformations does each highlight different technologies and (for me at least) the notion of simultaneity. That we need to be able to navigate the technology and the interaction and the critical reflective thinking together? Or perhaps for me the idea of literacy and what that word connotes is more powerful (maybe due to its history) that design and media ideas?
    Would you explain a few of the media or design concepts that you have in mind?

  5. Hi Jess,
    It seems to me there are 2 different versions of transliteracy here that are getting confused.
    First, there is the definition given in the article that transliteracy is an ‘ability’ to communicate using different media and second, there is your take (and mine also) that prioritizes the notion of transition.
    My point regarding Media and Design etc was aimed at this first definition. There’s plenty of work in various fields investigating what literacy is regarding various media. For example there is plenty of work in linguistics, media literacy, digital literacy, visual literacy, game studies, design studies, interaction studies and of course media studies.
    Additionally there are more cognitive science based studies which aim to show what happens in the brain when we read etc.
    The question might be how much do you need to know about these and other abilities to be classed as transliterate? If transliterate is an ability then how is it recognised or measured?
    The second notion, the one you describe here, and which interests me more, I would see as that also being undertaken by various philosophers, sociologists and linguists. For example, the notion of technics and consciousness is one that is covered quite extensively in the work of Bernard Stiegler. The work of the linguist Hjelmslev could also be seen as investigating this area, especially as it is utilised by Deleuze and Guattari in ATP. Manuel Delanda has also done some work in this area and there is also work in sociology by Niklas Luhmann, who takes a communications approach to systems theory. And of course there are media theorists such as Mcluhan, Williams and Kittler whose work is also relevant here, as well as others.
    It seems to me to make transliteracy as inclusive as you propose means these lines of enquiry need to be considered. What’s more, in the transliteracy article it is proposed that it will bring together phenomenology and more naturalistic (or even cybernetic) accounts of media – you touch on this aspect with the mention of feedback loops in your post – however this completely sidesteps the issues surrounding the project of naturalizing phenomenology which are yet to be resolved.
    So although I agree with you that this is an interesting and fruitful line of research I’m not sure this notion of transliteracy adds anything new to the work already underway. Do we really need another neologism?

  6. Simon I don’t think I see it as two separate or divided issues but rather the various discussions are different parts of the transliteracy debate. What I can say with relative confidence is that transliteracy is developing and of course that means prompting discussion and raising issues. I don’t see how stimulating critical thought (for instance your take on my opinion of feedback loops in my view of transliteracy) side-steps the project of naturalising phenomenology and whether that really is a project of transliteracy? To me it sounds like you would like to more fully quantify (naturalise or constitute) transliteracy whereas with my interpretation I am interested in the “condition” of transliteracy (right now, for me with online environments and pedagogy). For me, the condition of transliteracy or perhaps it is the transliteracy condition means I can think the duality of both transliteracy and the conditions that enable/condition it. You might suggest that this position is too idealistic (as Levinasian and other post-Husserlians said of transcendentalism in general) but as with phenomenology, here too the constructive (and constructing) practise is part of the project itself.

  7. I find it interesting that you see the work of those I mention as being part of the transliteracy debate. I’m not sure that’s the way around I’d see it.
    Also, I’m not trying to quantify transliteracy (asmy previous comments make clear) although from some of the work that went on earlier in the group (such as the how transliterate are you? quiz) I thought this was an avenue being explored.
    Anyway, my point remains. Do we need another neologism in this field? As far as I can see 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” is just another word for communication.
    I think your definition of transliteracy sounds closer to the work Alan Liu is doing with his transliteracies project.

  8. simon, you said “the project of naturalizing phenomenology” which sounds like an attempt to quantify as in “constitute”?
    my view of the condition of translit. is more like a changing (and growing and developing) ecology…
    I’m thinking about the current definition of translit. and your notion that “communication” already means this. I feel that in the translit. def. the word “across” implies the ability to think critically and create with various modes. I don’t think communication necessarily means that. Usually communication suggests sharing information or ideas, not necessarily being critically reflexive…but of course, this is my opinion.

  9. 1. Yes, I mentioned the problem of naturalizing phenomenology as I was suggesting this is an issue transliteracy was ignoring by both utilizing phenomenology and naturalistic accounts together without giving a wider account of how. I was suggesting that this is a problem for transliteracy as outlined in the essay.
    2. Yes, communication is commonly used in reference to the sending and receiving of messages, just as literacy commonly refers to writing & reading. However, as I’m sure you’re aware much contemporary work in this area has far broader concerns than this.

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