Defining Transliteracy

Sue Thomas took a broad and exploratory view of what 'transliteracy' means; it's more than reading and understanding but it does include these things.  It's certainly about an ability to deal with, absorb, attend to and perhaps produce, new thinking across multiple 'platforms'.  And I don't think in this case, we should interpret 'platform' in a purely technical sense, as would be tempting.  But the metaphor of a platform is interesting to think about.

Kate Ashton of UWE is interested in 'polyphonic narrative' and talks of ways of using ethnographic techniques and the use of transliteracy; she showed video of people in Africa using an interface that is controlled using the same keyboard commands used in vide gaming.  She says "this is quite difficult for an anthroplogist, but my daughter who plays games would have no problems navigating this content".  She's interested in polyphonic narrative.

She shows a video of Wendy James; this is rare footage apparently as Wendy does not 'do interviews'. 

Much of the footage she is showing is taken in refugee camps and the videos range from people deeply affected by the events they have experienced, to more reflective speaking and story-telling and children playing games and dancing.  All this material is navigated using new types of interface and ways of presenting the material.  The importance of context is stressed – and the need to understand where the material will be seen and used.

The common thread from both Sue's and Kate's presentations that I found really thought-provoking is what 'context' means and how it can be interpreted and perhaps acknowledged.  Kate thought that we were livestreaming or broadcasting the event (we're not) but there is a video being shot by Ash from De Montfort University.  She said that, while she might show some of the video to a small audience, she wasn't comfortable, because of some of the issues described were too sensitive.  And she obviously didn't think they were suitable to go out over the internet.  And there we have a take on 'context'.

There were also parallels in the two talks of what 'attention' and 'hyper attention' might mean.  What I think would be useful is more thinking on whether we can really divide our attention successfully across multiple platforms.  There was some mention of this being a 'generational' thing but both Sue and Kate didn't really see that this was an issue – and that it's about competence not generation.