What I learned about transliteracy in Saratoga

At 3Ts 2013: Transliteracy from Cradle to Career in Saratoga Springs this week I learned some new things about transliteracy. 

1. In What I Want, When I Want to Watch It: Brief Thoughts on Television Literacy in the Streaming World with Hollie Miller & Michele Forte, Hollie aka @theotherinside showed us a feature on Hulu Plus which allows you to choose between adverts. That means that when the ads come on – as they invariably do – if you don't like the one they're showing, you can choose a different ad from several on offer. Very interesting ad-based literacy – I've never been asked to consciously choose my own ads before, even though I know I'm already trading off that information on many of my social media platforms. And of course, in the process, Hulu learns lots about your preferences 😉

20130315_1715162. This next phenomenon may be familiar to American readers but I haven't seen it in the UK. In my hotel, the Saratoga Hampton Inn, each room has a transliterate doorsign – a different image for each room on my corridor. I didn't check whether they were duplicated on each floor or if there really are over 600 different images here, but was struck by the interesting idea. I, for example, am not a visual person and although I noticed the pictures on other doors as I passed by, it took me a while before I remembered to check out the picture on my own door. But
20130315_171524 many people, I'm sure, would find the image more memorable than the number. So this seemed to me an interesting translit
erate feature which I don't think I've ever seen before in a hotel. 

 3. Lastly, I started thinking again about MOOCs. I used to teach online a lot – I've taught in MOOs, O'Reilly Webboard, WebCT, on Skype and Blackboard, plus various other long defunct platforms. I set up the revolutionary trAce Online Writing School in 2002, and with Kate Pullinger devised the Online MA in Creative Writing and New Media. But I haven't taught whole courses online for quite a while now, and MOOCs have been rather passing me by. In the last few months, however, an increasing number of colleagues have spoken enthusiastically about their experiences of being both students and teachers in MOOCs, and I think it's time for me to get to grips with them. So I'm looking forward to refreshing my transliteracy skills online in an environment which I suspect will be pretty different from those I knew before.

So, three new personal takeways for me from this one day conference – very valuable and energising. Thanks to everyone who came. 

Libraries and Transliteracy


The US-based blog, Libraries and Transliteracy, has put together an excellent 'Beginners Guide to Transliteracy', explaining the history of the concept and how it is relevant to libraries today.  

Thanks to Bobbi Newman et al for this useful brief guide.  

‘A Million Penguins’ Five Years On

Well, without dipping into too many cliches about the passage of time, it is nearly five years since the DMU/Penguin wiki-novel experiment, 'A Million Penguins', took place.  The project ran from 1 Feb 2007 for five weeks, and all of us who were involved with it remember it as a time of chaos and great entertainment.  Yesterday I was down at Goldsmith's College, in London, where I was the external examiner for a PhD candidate, Amy Spencer; her PhD was on the Networked Book.  She built her thesis around three case studies of networked books that are also works of fiction, 'Paddlesworth Press' , 'The Golden Notebook Project', and 'A Million Penguins'. It's a solid and interesting piece of research.  

Reading Amy's thesis promoted me to look at the current status of 'A Million Penguins' online.  We heard early last year that Penguin was going to give up hosting the project, and we didn't have the time, or the resources, to figure out how to archive the massive wiki, with its many many pages, ourselves.  I regret this, though it is hard to see how we could have saved it in time.  So the original site no longer exists.

However, a good portion of 'A Million Penguins' was archived by the amazing people at the Internet Archive in San Francisco, and you can find these pages by searching for it via the Wayback Machine.  

During Amy's viva we talked a bit about the phenomenon of the networked book itself.  Amy pointed out that during the noughties there were a significant number of projects that called themselves 'networked books', both fiction and non-fiction, my own on-going project, 'Flight Paths: a Networked Novel' among them of course.  Amy wondered if the networked book concept has had its day.  I think that we are now seeing trade publishing approaching publishing fiction in a manner that owes much to the networked book concept, although of course, all in the service of marketing.  Social media marketing campaigns are now being built around books; these campaigns include bespoke web content, games, extra content, author interviews, etc.  These campaigns aim to foster reader engagement around a newly published book, whereas the networked books of the noughties all sought to foster creative engagement with text and other forms of media.  The networked book emphasis was on collaboration and contributing, whereas, of necessity, a trade publishing networked social media campaign is about sales.  

Reading it later #transliteracy

ReaditlaterDavid Carr's piece What Writers Are Worth Saving? Web Service Runs the Numbers (New York Times, 8.12.11) sheds interesting light on the relatively new phenomenon of marking articles to read at another time. Nat Weiner, founder of Read it Later, an app which allows you to save articles with one click and return to them at your leisure, regularly analyses the data his app collects. A year ago he noted that new technology, notably the iPad, is changing not just where we read, but also when. 

When a reader is given a choice about how to consume their content, a major shift in behavior occurs. They no longer consume the majority of their content during the day, on their computer. Instead they shift that content to prime time and onto a device better suited for consumption. Initially, it appears that the devices users prefer for reading are mobile devices, most notably the iPad. It’s the iPad leading the jailbreak from consuming content in our desk chairs. As better mobile experiences become more accessible to more readers, this movement will continue to grow. Readers want to consume content in a comfortable place, on their own time and mobile devices are making it possible for readers to take control once more. [1]

Now Weiner has reported on the most-read writers, those most commonly saved in the Read it Later app. Unsurprisingly, since this is an early-adopter activity, Lifehacker comes out top. Carr reports 

Nine out of 10 of the most saved worked there — Kevin Purdy, Adam Pash and Adam Dachis came in first, second and third — which indicates a strong Silicon Valley/West Coast bias and a very narrow one at that. That makes sense, given that clicking-to-save is a techie sort of thing to do. The other writers who round out the top 20 bear that out. They include MG Siegler of TechCrunch, Cory Doctorow of Boing Boing and Jesus Diaz of Gizmodo.

But it's early days, and I'm sure the habit will soon spread beyond the early adopters. It's yet another way in which the web facilitates an increase, not a reduction, in what and how we read.

‘Why don’t people write on toilet walls anymore?’ ‘Because they are too busy Facebooking or texting.’ #transliteracy

Toiletwall Couldn't resist taking a photo of this interesting example of transliterate change in our lavatories. Sorry it's a bit indistinct – you may need to click to enlarge. 

The writer on the left asks 'Why don't people write on toilet walls any more?'

And the commenter on the right replies: 'Because they are too busy Facebooking or texting instead'.

I think this is probably true. Any thoughts? Is the same change happening in mens' loos?

Talking #transliteracy with @dajbelshaw @PatParslow @hrheingold @daveowhite @ambrouk

First posted at my personal blog

Today, the looming start of term requires grant and report writing but I cannot settle to it without first referencing one of those complex Twitter conversations that suddenly burst out last night and needs to be addressed. This is where Twitter quickly becomes annoyingly much too constraining, but this post will also be short as time is limited today.

Last night @dajbelshaw @ambrouk @PatParslow @hrheingold @daveowhite and I were discussing a new post by @dajbelshaw on digital literacies, open source and Google, a conversation which led us in all kinds of directions including digital and analogue cultural normalization, crap detection, and the post-digital. This morning I followed up on suggested reading via 2 pieces by @daveowhite from 2009 – one on the post-digital and an earlier one on preparing for it

I'd like to make a quick comment on the notion of post-digital, or post- anything for that matter.  My research into transliteracy has convinced me that thinking linearly about literacy is seldom a good idea. Literacy should be thought of as a holistic ecology, not a linear series of events and changes. Yes, we can trace all kinds of 'first uses' to dates or moments in time but what is much more important than a first use is the way that a tool or skill becomes integrated and unified within the greater sphere of all literacies – nonverbal, visual, grammatical, alphabetical, interpersonal, cultural, interactional and so on. 

There are some who find transliteracy annoying because it is too much like a theory of everything. I appreciate their irritation, but point out that it was not until we developed the unifying concept of 'the environment' that real progress started to be made in terms of collaboration towards ecological sustainability. I predict that the same will be found to be true of literacy once we realise that theconnections between varieties of literacies are endlessly more fascinating and productive than the differences.


Welcome to new contributors Souvik Mukherjee and Bobbi Newman

I'm delighted to announce that two new contributors have agreed to write for the Transliteracy Research Group. Souvik is writing from India, and Bobbi from the USA. I very much look forward to their perspectives. Meanwhile, here are their bios. Read about the whole team here.

Souvik Mukerhjee

Mukherjee Souvik Mukherjee is an independent research fellow working on digital game narratives. Besides his reearch on videogames, Souvik has also been involved in analysing the impact of social media projects on communities, especially in relation to transliteracy and business innovation., as a research fellow in the Film, Media and Journalism department of De Montfort University.  He completed his PhD on storytelling in New Media, especially  focusing on videogame narratives, and has published and presented papers on a range of related topics. Besides New Media, Souvik also takes a keen interest in e-learning and has been involved in analysing online media and virtual learning network usage in a higher. After completing his project at DMU, he has returned to India, where he hails from, to develop New Media research networks. Souvik writes about his research on his blog Ludus ex Machina and tweets as @prosperoscell

Bobbi Newman


Bobbi is dedicated to helping libraries find their place in the digital age. She is passionate about 21st century literacies and the role of all libraries in equal access and opportunity for all. Her professional interests include digital and technology based services, the digital divide, and improving existing services through expanding traditional methods, while creating innovative new practices. On the personal side, she is on a never-ending quest for the perfect pair of shoes. Bobbi was named a Mover and Shaker by Library Journal in 2011. Her professional involvements and accomplishments include founding and coordinating the semi-annual Library Day in the Life Project. She is a frequent caller on T is for Training and a contributing editor and advocate at Library Renewal. In 2010 she co-founded Transliteracy Interest Group, LITA, ALA and served as Chair from 2010-2011. Bobbi co-founded and writes for the Libraries and Transliteracy Project. She was recently appointed as the LITA representative on the ALA OITP Digital Literacy Task Force and serves as an ALA Councilor-at-Large and on the OITP Advisory Committee. She shares her passions by consulting and speaking at local, national, and international conferences. She writes at Librarian by Day and Libraries and Transliteracy and lives in the USA.