The detailed “Working Definition” that I see to the right of
the latest post every time I visit Transliteracy.com only goes some way towards
answering this question for me, but raises many more questions along that way.
Of course, I’m not the first to ask these and some transliterate
gurus have provided some pretty good answers to some of them… but the
discussion isn’t over yet, so raising them again may elicit some useful
Transliteracy is 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.
The context of and need for this emerging definition are
documented by seven highly qualified writers in the article Transliteracy:
Crossing divides suggested as Background Reading for this blog. I’ve read it, a few times. So
why my need to grapple? With all the work that’s already gone into it and
especially if, as the article states, transliteracy is not a new behaviour, why
is it still a “working” definition?
Perhaps it’s because this comprehensive statement uses so
many words that signify more than one thing; suggesting so many required skills
that I wonder if anyone can ever be truly transliterate. It seems to start off
Read? Yes. Write? Yes. Interact? Yes. Across a range of
platforms? Er… ye-es…. Wait,… how many platforms? All of them? All the time?
Some of them? Some of the time? Which ones? Simultaneously? Consecutively?
Transformatively? All of the above? And what exactly are these platforms, tools and media?
Signing? As in hieroglyphics, or signing for the deaf, or iconography, or traffic
signs…? Come to think of it… Read? Write? Technically? With or without
spellchecker? With what levels of comprehension and intent?
Full of these thoughts, I tweeted on Mon 26 Oct 2009 … “Is
multiliteracy different from transliteracy?” Toby Moores aka sleepydog replied that
“transliteracy is transient – it helps to be multiliterate to see transliterate
opportunities which then become new literacies”.
Is transliteracy partly an attitude then, rather than an
accumulation of a minimum number of skills? Is it the willingness and desire to
transition between media, learning what one needs to know as one goes, to
create or interpret content that is as close as possible in form to the
original content in the original medium, while accepting that it must
inevitably be different and differently apprehended in its new form?
I say “form” deliberately. The article notes that “the word
‘transliteracy’ is derived from the verb ‘to transliterate’, meaning to write
or print a letter or word using the closest corresponding letters of a
different alphabet or language.” This does not mean to “translate”. For
example, one might transliterate the Hebrew word “רוח” as “ruwach”. This would enable those who use Latin rather than
Hebrew script to say the word, but not to understand it.