Transliteracy: some thoughts on themes and common ground

Transliteracy_conference wordle  At the recent transliteracy conference, one conversation touched upon the question of whether it was appropriate to have a definition for transliteracy. Although the presentations covered a rich mix of story-telling, digital and transdisciplinary art, anthropology and critical literacies, each presenter was, nonetheless, able to describe what they consider the relevance of the concept of transliteracy to their own research and discipline. This would seem to indicate that the working definition is fit-for-purpose, at least in initiating debate, engagement, if not always common ground. continue reading

 The dilemmas around the notion of literacy are well acknowledged. This isn't helped by the current range of perspectives, approaches and terminology. At times too, it seems possible that every activity, practice, competence, intelligence – and more – could be described as a literacy.

Even so, it seems that within education, there is a rising awareness and even 'some' limited agreement, if not action, about not just opportunities but the importance of issues such as e-safety, access and the need for criticality around the broader concerns of media literacy. An example of recent work which shows clearly this complexity is the LLiDA project (Learning Literacies in a Digital Age). Beetham et al, tackle the characteristics and challenges of learning literacies, which they recommend -and I agree- should be embedded institutionally wide. It is no longer just Media Studies that has a stake in exploring the relevance of digital media to its work: whether it be understanding digital cultures and genres of writing for the purposes of creating fictional characters, stories or music or for learning the ropes of professions such as journalism or PR.

In this respect, I particularly liked Drew Whitworth’s approach for embedding critical literacies in the curriculum. He referred to conceptual ‘frames’ that can be used for analysing different contexts. His work explains the use of this framework in practice (Whitworth 2009). At the conference, he argued that transliteracy “needs to show”…it is something which co-exists with, and helps synthesise, other subjective, objective and intersubjective forms of value.” More work needed then on developing transliteracy!

In another interesting paper, with relevance to transliteracy, James Gee, seeks to build upon insights from various strands of research to develop what he refers to as a potentially themed discipline of Digital Media and Learning In doing so, he reviews the confusingly named: New Literacy (social rather than cognitive orientation); New Media Literacy Studies; New Literacies & Situated Cognition approaches. He argues that building a coherent body of scholarship requires agreement on a strongly-focused theme. The field in question, Digital Media and Learning, Gee says,.. “is at the stage of making plausibility arguments and offering limited proof-of-concept implementations.”(p43).

The gist of his proposal is that researchers should continue to identify typical ‘examples’ of the theme. They should then (collaboratively) explain the basis, assumptions and taken-for-granted language in their claims and understanding. In this way, synergies and commonalities can be drawn out from across the ‘theme’. This is really about looping back and forth between theory and practice, in line with what Jess Laccetti and others have mentioned previously on this blog.

Alongside keywords, what then are the main themes associated with transliteracy? Perhaps one might be to continue exploring connections with transdisciplinarity, which Steve Gibson described as “[implying] a level of direct connection and cross-over between mediums and disciplines.” Unfortunately the word cloud, Wordle, of the conference abstracts doesn't help with that one, given its focus on numbers rather than relative value of the words.