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Bailey Literacies

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Donna Qualley

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Transcript of Bailey Literacies

Studies in Literacy

Bailey Rufer
English 442 - Fall 2017

What is Literacy?
What constitutes as Literacy? Is literacy the same today as it once was in the past?

Literacy was once a catchall phrase to encompass the idea that a person was able to read and write. If somebody could read a book or write their name, then they were literate in some fashion.

Today, it's difficult to define literacy without considering other details or concepts that allow somebody to be "literate."

Language and grammar play a big role in our literacy and communication skills. A major part of communication is having appropriate speaking skills, and
"saying the 'right thing' at the 'right time' in the 'right place'"
can be the key to having effective, verbal communication and literacy skills. (Discourses and Literacies, 167)

Paired with the idea of saying the right thing at the right time and in the right place, our personal beliefs, thoughts, feelings, even the way that we dress and carry ourselves play a role in our communication and literacy skills. These all come together to form
. Discourses
"enact specific socially recognisable identities engaged in specific socially recognisable activities. (Gee 171)"
primary discourse
is our
"culturally distinctive way of being an 'everyday person,' that is, a non-specialised, non-professional person. (Gee 173)"
Our primary discourse sets the foundation for our primary culture and initial "sense of self."
Primary discourses can change and morph as a person gets older. Primary discourses can even disappear completely. However, for those who identify with a primary discourse for the rest of their lives, it serves as their
lifeworld discourse
. This is very similar to a general, primary discourse, but instead of disappearing or dying, it serves and exists for the entirety of one's life.
A person does not go through life with one, singular discourse. All of the discourses we join and leave later in life are
secondary discourses.
These can be groups like religious organizations, clubs, jobs, or schools.
REAL WORLD EXAMPLE: "Love Letters"by Megan Foss

Real-World Stories/Examples
Light Blue Brackets:
Side Excursions
Yellow Rectangles:
Orange Circles:
Important Information/Definitions/ Ideas
Red Brackets:

What if your level of literacy doesn't meet the standards set by those around you? Do you try to make do, or do you create a whole new discourse - a whole new "self?"

Do you forget everything you've learned, or do you incorporate old teachings into newer teachings?
What would you do if you had to change your discourse to fit the world around you? What if you had two separate discourses that clashed in several ways?

What if they were harmonious, but still so very different?
REAL WORLD EXAMPLE: "Credo" by Richard Rodriguez
In "Love Letters" by Megan Foss, Foss struggles to find the written/spoken balance between her older, rougher discourse of being a drug addict, and her new, professional discourse of being a writer and, eventually, a college student/professor. When she finds the balance, she realizes that her past doesn't have to die off, contrary to what others may think. Foss finds ways to incorporate the language of her primary discourse into the grammar of her secondary discourse.
"As a person grows up, lots of interesting things can happen to his or her primary Discourse. Primary Discourses can change, hybridise with other Discourses, and they can even die. In any case, for the vast majority of us, our primary discourse, through all its transformations, serves us throughout life as what I will call our 'lifeworld Discourse." (Gee, Social Linguistics and Literacy, 173)
"But one thing I learned early on was that people are judged by their use of language - that how they spoke could define them as trailer park trash or it could define them as being potentially suitable for admittance to the country club. I knew that my successful reinvention would depend on how facile I could become with words." (Foss, Love Letters 29)
"But I missed my language. The ungrammatical non-standard English that in its broken rhythms seemed to define the broken rhythms of our lives on the streets. And for a while I prided myself on speaking two languages. I told myself that I was socially bilingual -- that it was a gift because I could walk in two worlds. That's what I told myself but I couldn't avoid knowing that the other language was useless because nobody in my here and now spoke it." (Foss, Love Letters 29)
"The gentle elderly professor of my nonfiction class told me that he'd be more comfortable if i'd present my prose as fiction. Perhaps then such a voice would be acceptable. In real life no one would ever believe that a $20 hooker with an eighth-grade education would know what 'hermeneutics' meant. And when I tried to tell him that he was wrong - that I had known what the word meant - he told me it didn't matter. No one would believe it." (Foss, Love Letters 30)
It didn't matter anymore if the whole world found out I was trailer park trash because I had discovered something. I can say "gonna" and "hermeneutics" in the same sentence, and if it doesn't sound authentic, the problem is with the way the world listens and not the way I speak... Reclaiming my language - proving that being trailer park trash doesn't preclude intelligence - has gone a long way towards bringing me comfort in my new world." (Foss, Love Letters 32)
"Credo" by Richard Rodriguez details his childhood while growing up in a very devout, Catholic lifestyle. Rodriguez discusses the differences between his Catholic home life and his Catholic life at school, and how similar and different the two are. It wasn't until college when Rodriguez was able to branch out and learn more about the secular world around him. Near the end, Rodriguez states that he is still very devout today, but he laments that aspects of Catholicism in modern society have changed too much for his liking.

Learning vs.

involves conscious knowledge gained through teaching.
involves usually subconscious exposure
Where families incorporate aspects of secondary discourse practices into a primary discourse lifestyle. Early borrowing is used as a tool to promote success in a child's later secondary discourse(s).

Using metaknowledge to fake your way into a discourse that you you don't belong to.
Literacy/ Dominant Literacy
Mastering a secondary discourse; there is always more than one 'literacy.'
Powerful/Liberating Literacy

Used to critique others; always involves learning.
Other Basic Types of Literacy
REAL WORLD EXAMPLE: "Welcome To Pine Point"
"One night last year I went online to see what had become of Pine Point.

I'm not sure why. Trying to give shape to a faint bit of nostalgia, I guess.

Turns out Pine Point isn't there anymore.

"Time passes and we become who we'll be. Defined by our jobs, our families, our accomplishments. Who we are is still a part of who we were, at least to those who knew us when."
What if the discourses you were so familiar with suddenly disappeared, and you were forced to move on from a part of your life that you might not have been ready to leave?

Most industry towns, after losing their purpose, attempt resurrections, reinventions, or just slowly wither away.

In Pine Point, they decided to erase the town from the face of the earth."
"When I look at people's faces in old Pine Point photos, there's no sense of hesitation, no hint that they knew that one day this all might end... What remains of Pine Point is an unfinished sentence... When you decide to get rid of a town, there are odd considerations and effects. For instance, once it's gone, has it really, truly disappeared?"
"Absence preserves and prevents what might have been.

The corner store will never become an Arby's

Your family home won't be painted, have an addition built, be razed to make way for a parking lot.

Recollection will always be the most accurate version of that place and time...

I suppose we all want a chance to edit our story, to keep the best stuff on top, bury the rest, decide how we'll be remembered by others."
REAL WORLD EXAMPLE: "What Every American Should Know" by Eric Liu

Cultural Literacy
"To be culturally literate is to possess the basic information needed to thrive in the modern world... It is by no means confined to 'culture' narrowly understood as an acquaintance with the arts." (Hirsch JR. 83)
Being literate doesn't necessarily have anything to do with being able to read and write. You can have the ability to write eloquently, or you could be able to read longer books in short periods of time, but that doesn't mean that you wholly understand the content you've produced or consumed.
Cultural literacy can show up in multiple different ways. It can establish itself as something as simple as somebody learning how to use the newest technology to try to keep up with the 'modern world,' or it could be something as complex as somebody trying to learn a completely different way of synthesizing or writing texts/materials.

Both of these instances display people who know how to read
and write, but they must learn how to navigate their
problems using the literacy skills they have.
REAL WORLD EXAMPLE: "Faking Cultural Literacy" by Karl Greenfeld
REAL WORLD EXAMPLE: "The Classroom and the Wider Culture" by Fan Shen
EXCURSION: "The Goggles on 'Welcome to Pine Point'
EXCURSION: "College Kids Say the Darndest Things"
EXCURSION: "Shakespeare in the Bush" by Laura Bohannan
EXCURSION: "Superman and Me" by Sherman Alexie
What's a "Literacy Narrative?"
REAL WORLD EXAMPLE: "Is Google Making Us Stupid?" by Nicholas Carr
"The Deep Space of Digital Reading" by Paula LaFarge
REAL WORLD EXAMPLE: "Yes, People Still Read, But Now It's Social" by Steven Johnson"
EXCURSION: "The Futures of Literacy" by Gunther Kress
EXCURSION: "Twilight of the Books" by Caleb Crain
EXCURSION: "Technology Doesn't Dumb Us Down. It Frees Our Minds." By Damon Darlin
Is it Important to be Culturally Literate?
Sponsors of Literacy by Deborah Brandt
How has Technology Changed Literacy?
vs. Literacy
The Gutenberg Parentheses
In "Welcome to Pine Point," a creative duo comes together to tell a visual story about Pine Point, a Canadian mining town that had 'disappeared' after the mines closed. This visual narrative shares the stories of those who once lived there, and had to start anew once the area was not legally recognized as a city anymore. "Welcome to Pine Point" explores how memories and stories can be preserved long after they've been physically abandoned.
"Everybody has these assumptions and remembers people from high school or their youth, and then all of a sudden they get an update 20 or 30 years later. Sometimes it informs where that person ended up, and sometimes it doesn't." (2)
"The 'Pine Point Revisited' site was made by one of the former residents. It had a real wealth of visual assets and tons of photos, and people who had lived there had contributed video and badges and all sorts of artifacts of the town. You could tell there was a deep-rooted community there. This was more than just a tribute to a town. There did seem to be a secondary or deeper community that was still existing.

That's where we started from. How was this community preserved in this way that housed memory and what was the story behind why the town disappeared?" (1)
"Historian Anders Henriksson, a five-year veteran of the university classroom, has faithfully recorded his freshman students' more striking insights into European history from the Middle Ages to the present."

The interesting thing about this is that it shows that even though these college students were clearly taught something (in one way or another), they never really acquired the correct information.
"During the Middle Ages, everybody was middle-aged.

"Mideval (sic) people were violent. Murder during this period was nothing. Everybody killed someone."

"Finally, Europe caught the Black Death. The bubonic plague is a social disease in the sense that it can be transmitted by intercourse and other etceteras."

"Victims of the Black Death grew boobs on their neck."

"Art was on a more associated level. Europe was full of incredable (sic) churches with great art bulging out their doors. Renaissance merchants were beautiful and almost lifelike."

"An angry Martin Luther nailed 95 theocrats to a church door."

"Louis XIV became King of the Sun... If he didn't like people, he sent them to the gallows to row for the rest of their lives."

"Voltare (sic) wrote a book called
that got him in trouble with Frederick the Great."

"Problems were so complexicated (sic) that in Paris, out of a city population of 1 million people, 2 million able bodies were on the loose."

"The middle class was tired and needed a rest."

"World War II broke out around 1912-1914. At war people get killed, and then they aren't people anymore, but friends.

"Germany was displaced after WWI. This gave rise to Hitler. Germany was morbidly overexcited and unbalanced."

Germany invaded Poland, France invaded Belgium, and Russia invaded everybody. War screeched to an end when a nukuleer (sic) explosion was dropped on Heroshima (sic). A whole generation had been wipe (sic) out in two world wars, and their forlorne (sic) families were left to pick up the peaces (sic)."
"I protested that human nature is pretty much the same the whole world over; at least the general plot and motivation of the greater tragedies would always be clear...." (1)
"Sometime... you must tell us some more stories of your country. We, who are elders, will instruct you in their true meaning, so that when you return to your own land your elders will see that you have not been sitting in the bush, but among those who know things and who have taught you wisdom."
"Shakespeare in the Bush" is an interesting story about a woman that argued that human nature is a universal concept. To prove it, she had the idea of retelling Shakespeare's Hamlet to people that lived in the African Bush.

As she begins her story, she quickly realizes that the people that live in the bush believe and understand things in different ways, and it exposes many plot holes or misunderstandings within the text. This leaves the woman frustrated, but it also teaches here that the true meaning of things can be construed various ways when viewed from the perspective of different people.
In this short essay, Sherman Alexis shares how he developed his own love of reading, and how both his father and Superman comic books had 'sponsored' his literacy skills.
"My father, who is one of the few Indians that went to catholic school on purpose, was an avid reader of westerns, spy thrillers, murder mysteries, gangster epics, basketball player biographies, and anything else he could find. My father loved books, and since I loved my father with an aching devotion, I decided to love books as well."
"I still remember the exact moment when I first understood, with a sudden clarity, the purpose of a paragraph. I didn't have the vocabulary to say 'paragraph,' but I realized that a paragraph was a fence that held words... At the same time I was seeing the world in paragraphs, I also picked up the Superman comic book. Each panel, complete with picture, dialogue, and narrative was a three-dimensional paragraph... I read with equal parts joy and desperation. I loved those books, but I also knew that love had only one purpose. I was trying to save my life."
"I grew up a Catholic at home and at school, in private and in public. My mother and father were deeply pious catolicos; all of my relatives were Catholics. At home, there were holy pictures on a wall of nearly every room, and a crucifix hung over my bed. My first twelve years as a student were spent in Catholic schools where I could look up to the front of the room and see a crucifix hanging over the clock. (Rodriguez 77)
"I knew nothing about modern secular ideologies. In civics class a great deal was said about oppressive Soviet policies; but at no time did I hear classical Marxism explained. In church, at the close of mass, the congregation prayed for 'the conversion of Russia." (Rodriguez 78)
"Catholicism shaped my whole day. It framed my experience of eating and sleeping and washing; it named the season and the hour...I would write at the top of my arithmetic or history homework the initials
ary, and
oseph. (All of my homework was thus dedicated.)" (Rodriguez 80)
"Very early, however, the gringo church in our neighborhood began to superimpose itself on our family life. The first English-speaking dinner guest at our house was a priest from Sacred Heart Church ... I remember how my mother dressed her four children in outfits that had taken her weeks to sew ... I remember that my mother served a gringo meatloaf ... After dinner we all went to the front room where the priest took a small book from his jacket to recite some prayers, consecrating our house as our family. He left a large picture of a sad-eyed Christ, exposing his punctured heart. That picture survives." (Rodriguez 82)
"Now I go to mass every Sunday. Old habits persist ... The mass is less ornamental; it has been 'modernized,' tampered with, demythologized, deflated ... I continue to claim my Catholicism ... I do not know myself, not with any certainty, how much I really am saying when I profess Catholicism ... My Catholicism changed when I was in high school. It was not simply that I found a different church when I went to church; I went to church less often. Liturgy was something for Sunday. In college I had few Catholic friends and fewer Catholic teachers. During my college years I started reading Protestant theology. I blended Catholicism with borrowed insights from Sartre and Zen and Buber and Miltonic Protestantism. And Freud ... I stopped going to Confession, not because of my behavior conflicted with the teaching of institutional church but because I no longer thought to assess my behavior against those standards ... I was a liberal Catholic.
"Scholarship Boy"
In one of Richard Rodriguez's other essays, "The Achievement of Desire," Rodriguez labels himself as a "scholarship boy," a term coined by writer Richard Hoggart in
The Uses of Literacy.

Rodriguez explains that a scholarship boy is somebody who "...cannot afford to admire his parents, [so] he concentrates on the benefits that an education will bestow upon him. He becomes especially ambitious. Without the support of old certainties and consolations, almost mechanically, he assumes the procedures and doctrines of the classroom." (Rodriguez 518) His ambition can be seen carried over to "Credo," and is mirrored in his religious lifestyle.
How difficult would it be for you to assume a new identity? What if you had to blend your current identity with a different, more involved identity? How would the blending of identities translate over in written text?
In "The Classroom and the Wider Culture" by Fan Shen, Shen shares his experience with "reconciling his Chinese identity with an English identity dictated by the rules of English composition." (Shen 1) Shen also explores how his cultural background changed his approach to learning 'English writing,' and how this new way of writing changed his logical
(the natural way he organized and conveyed his thoughts in writing)
and ideological
(the values he acquired from his social and cultural background)

Throughout changing his writing styles and processes, Shen realized that he was not only changing his written self, but he was adopting a whole new identity.

"Writing Across Borders"
In short, yes. It's important to be able to properly synthesize and understand what's happening in the world around you, as well as understanding other cultures or points of view. However, defining what's important and what isn't is something that fluctuates throughout history. Things that were culturally significant in the past might not be so important now, and things that are important now might not have existed ten years ago. Being culturally literate is important, but it's also something that's heavily up to interpretation.
"During the period 1970 - 1985, the amount of shared knowledge that we have been able to take for granted in communicating with our fellow citizens has also been declining. More and more of our young people don't know things we used to assume they knew.

A side effect of the diminution in shared information has been a noticeable increase in the number of articles in such publications as
and the
Wall Street Journal
about the surprising ignorance of the young."
- E.D. Hirsch JR., The Decline of Literate Knowledge
"The rules of English composition encapsulate values that are absent in, or something contradictory to, the values of other societies (in my case, China). Therefore, learning the rules of English composition is, to a certain extent, learning the values of Anglo-American society." (Shen 460)
"Rule number one in English composition is: be yourself ... The word "I" has often been identified with another "bad" word, "individualism," which has become a synonym for selfishness in China. For a long time the words "self" and "individualism" have had negative connotations in my mind, and the negative force of the words naturally extended to the field of literary studies." (Shen 460)
"To me, idealism is the philosophical foundation of the dictum of English composition: "be yourself." In order to write good English, I knew that I had to be myself, which actually meant not to be my Chinese self. It meant that I had to create and English self and be
self." (Shen 461)
"In English composition, an essential rule for the logical organization of a piece of writing is the use of a 'topic sentence.' In Chinese composition, 'from surface to core' is an essential rule, a rule which means that one ought to reach a topic gradually and 'systematically' instead of abruptly. The concept of a topic sentence, it seems to me, is symbolic of the values of a busy people in an industrialized society, rushing to get things done, hoping to attract and satisfy the busy reader very quickly. Thinking back, I realized that I did not fully understand the virtue of the concept until my life began to rush at the speed of everyone else's in this country." (Shen 462)
"The change is profound: through my understanding of new meanings of words like 'individualism,' 'idealism,' and 'I,' I began to accept the underlying concepts and values of American writing, and by learning to use 'topic sentences' I began to accept a new logic." (Shen 465)
In 1987, a professor named E.D. Hirsch published a text titled Cultural Literacy. At the back of this text, Hirsch listed 5,000 things that every person should know, ranging from names, to dates, to short phrases and concepts. This quickly became a sensationalized list that many people vouched for or debated against. Today, many people consider this list to be 'outdated' or missing pertinent information that would allow somebody to be 'culturally literate' in today's society. In this article, Eric Liu argues that while there are some entries in Hirsch's list that are still important today, many of the entries are not relevant or are simply outdated.
If you were asked to name the year the Battle of the Bulge happened, could you? What about your knowledge regarding Tin Pan Alley? Both of these are considered to be things that 'every american should know.' Have no clue? You're not the only one.
"The thing about the list, though, was that it was - by design - heavy on the deeds and words of the 'dead white males' who had formed the foundations of American culture but who had by then begun to fall out of academic fashion." (Liu 3)
"If you take the time to read the book attached to Hirsch's appendix, you'll find a rather effective argument about the nature of background knowledge and public culture. Literacy is not just a matter of decoding the strings of letters that make up words or the meaning of each words in a sequence. It is a matter of decoding context: the surrounding matrix of things referred to in the text and things implied by it." (Liu 4)
"The new America, where people of color make up a numerical majority, is not a think-tank projection. It may well be the condition of the people born in the United States this very year. But an America where nonwhites hold a majority of the power in civic life is much farther off. If you are an immigrant to the United States - or, if you were born here but are the first in your family to go to college, and thus a socioeconomic new arrival; or, say, a black citizen in Ferguson, Missouri deciding for the first time to participate in a municipal election, and thus a civis neophyte - you have a single overriding objective shared by all immigrants at the moment of arrival: figure out how stuff really gets done here. That means understanding what's really being said in public, in the media, in colloquial conversation. It means understanding what's not being said." (Liu 7)
"The trouble is, there are also many items on Hirsch's list that don't seem particularly necessary for entry into today's civic and economic mainstream. They seem pulled from the nineteenth-century McGuffy's Readers that Hirsch nostalgically praises, drawing from English, Latin and Biblical references that in the 1800's seemed timeless. But it turns out items like this aren't timeless. They were displaced, as time passed, by sayings and songs of people from other places.
"The same diversity that makes it necessary to have and to sustain a unifying cultural core demands that Americans make the core less monochromatic, more inclusive, and continuously relevant for contemporary life. A list for cultural literacy, like the Constitution, is not an antiquarian's specimen to be left untouched. It is an evolving document, amendable and ever subject to reinterpretation." (Liu 10)
"'In Vietnam, you risk the chance of being penalized if you go 'outside the classroom' and put in extra information other than what's lectured in the class from the teachers. An example was when I was younger I was given a topic about a typical meeting in the classroom and just describing a class meeting. And so I was here in the classroom writing about the atmosphere of the class, but I thought that wasn't enough, so I looked out the windows and I started writing about the yard, how peaceful it is during study hours, and I start mentioning about the trees and the leaves falling, and I got marked down for that because I wasn't supposed to write about outside the classroom."
In "Writing Across Borders," we hear stories about students who also had to adopt a new literacy background, similar to Fan Shen's experience with learning how to write 'the English way.' This video heavily puts into perspective not only the differences
between 'American Literacy' and literacy in other countries, but also the struggle that comes with adopting a new way of writing.
EXCURSION: "Writing First!" by Peter Elbow
- "'Electracy' is to digital media what literacy is to alphabetic writing: an apparatus, or social machine, partly technological partly institutional." (Ulmer)

- Electracy doesn't act alone, nor does it replace orality and literacy. Electracy is a supplement that provides a "third dimension of thought, practice, and identity." (Ulmer)
With so many things happening at one time, how is it possible for somebody to keep up with world events? Does it really benefit somebody to not keep up with pop culture or current events? How can you just
In "Faking Cultural Literacy," Karl Greenfeld discusses how easy it is to weigh in on topics without ever having to familiarize yourself with them. He also brings up the point that being culturally literate at all times can reveal an underlying, stressful pressure, and that 'skimming' an article can help alleviate it. With new versions of technology being birthed each year, it's becoming easier to 'fake' cultural literacy.
"It’s never been so easy to pretend to know so much without actually knowing anything. We pick topical, relevant bits from Facebook, Twitter or emailed news alerts, and then regurgitate them. Instead of watching “Mad Men” or the Super Bowl or the Oscars or a presidential debate, you can simply scroll through someone else’s live-tweeting of it, or read the recaps the next day. Our cultural canon is becoming determined by whatever gets the most clicks." (Greenfeld)
"What we all feel now is the constant pressure to know enough, at all times, lest we be revealed as culturally illiterate. So that we can survive an elevator pitch, a business meeting, a visit to the office kitchenette, a cocktail party, so that we can post, tweet, chat, comment, text as if we have seen, read, watched, listened. What matters to us, awash in petabytes of data, is not necessarily having actually consumed this content firsthand but simply knowing that it exists — and having a position on it, being able to engage in the chatter about it. We come perilously close to performing a pastiche of knowledgeability that is really a new model of know-nothingness." (Greenfeld)
"With the advent of each new technology — movable type, radio, television, the Internet — there have been laments that the end is nigh for illuminated manuscripts, for books, magazines and newspapers. What is different now is the ubiquity of the technology that is replacing every old medium." (Greenfeld)
"Who decides what we know, what opinions we see, what ideas we are repurposing as our own observations? Algorithms, apparently, as Google, Facebook, Twitter and the rest of the social media postindustrial complex rely on these complicated mathematical tools to determine what we are actually reading and seeing and buying." (Greenfeld)
"The information is everywhere, a constant feed in our hands, in our pockets, on our desktops, our cars, even in the cloud. The data stream can’t be shut off. It pours into our lives a rising tide of words, facts, jokes, GIFs, gossip and commentary that threatens to drown us. Perhaps it is this fear of submersion that is behind this insistence that we’ve seen, we’ve read, we know. It’s a none-too-convincing assertion that we are still afloat. So here we are, desperately paddling, making observations about pop culture memes, because to admit that we’ve fallen behind, that we don’t know what anyone is talking about, that we have nothing to say about each passing blip on the screen, is to be dead." (Greenfeld)
Literacy narratives are often recounts or personal narratives that pertain to one's literacy. This specific genre of narrative focuses mainly on reading, writing, composition, and language acquisition, among other subgenres. Literacy narratives sometimes include “explicit images of schooling and teaching” (Eldred and Mortenson,1992, p. 513) but they also focus on literacy in informal settings such as home, churches, online, and other non-academic environments (Selfe and Hawisher, 2004; Brandt, 1995, 1998, 1999, 2001; Street, 1995).

Some examples of literacy narratives that we've seen so far are "Love Letters" by Megan Foss and "The Classroom and the Wider Culture" by Fan Shen. Each of these stories have detailed accounts of literacy skills from each of their respective writers.
Technology has definitely shaped the way that we read, write and synthesize information in today's culture. As talked about in "Faking Cultural Literacy" by Karl Greenfeld, people now more than ever are relying on article titles and their skimming skills to prove that they're culturally literate. However, it's more than just clickbait that's shaping today's literate generation. Videos, movies, music, and the Internet as a whole are all playing a part in one big, moving machine. Are the norms of today positively influencing our literacy, or are they hindering our knowledge?
Did somebody in your life influence your literacy skills? What about hindering your literacy?
In "Sponsors of Literacy," Deborah Brandt discusses the concept of 'literary sponsorship,' an entity that's "any agent, local or distant, concrete or abstract, who enables, supports, teaches, models, as well as recruits, suppresses, or withholds literacy - and gains advantage by it in some way..." (Brandt) Literary sponsors could be anybody, from somebody within your home life, to somebody that is a part of your school life/religious life/other secondary discourses.
"Although the interests of the sponsor and the sponsored do not have to converge (and, in fact, may conflict), sponsors nevertheless set the terms for access to literacy and wield powerful incentives for compliance and loyalty. Sponsors are a tangible reminder that literacy learning throughout history has always required permission, sanction, assistance, coercion, or at the minimum, contact with existing trade routes." (Brandt 166)
"Sponsors, as we ordinarily think of them, are powerful figures who bankroll events or smooth the way for initiates. Usually richer, more knowledgeable and more entrenched than the sponsored, sponsors nevertheless enter a reciprocal relationship with those they underwrite. They lend their resources or credibility to the sponsored but also stand to gain benefits from their success, whether by direct repayment or, indirectly, by credit of association." (Brandt 167)
"In whatever form, sponsors deliver the ideological freight that must be borne for access to what they have. Of course, the sponsored can be oblivious to or innovative with this ideological burden. Like Little Leaguers who wear the logo of the local insurance agency on their uniforms, not our of concern for enhancing the agency's image but as a means for getting to play ball, people throughout history have acquired literacy pragmatically under the banner of other's causes." (Brandt 168)
"Literacy, like land, is a valued commodity in the economy, a key resource in gaining profit and edge. This value helps to explain, of course, the lengths people will go to secure literacy for themselves and their children. But it also explains why the powerful work so persistently to conscript and ration the powers of literacy." (Brandt 169)
"Literacy sponsors affect literacy learning in two powerful ways. They help to organize and administer stratified systems of opportunities and access, and they raise the literacy stakes in struggles for competitive advantage. Sponsors enable and hinder literacy activity, often forcing the formation of new literacy requirements while decertifying old ones." (Brandt 178-179)
Directing Attention
In the same book, Keller also mentions that we divide our attention up between things or activities in different ways.
Reading in a
Culture of Acceleration
Reading and Writing:
Fan-Fiction and Remixing
REAL-WORLD EXAMPLE: "The Rise of Writing" by Deborah Brandt
In "Technology Doesn't Dumb Us Down..." by Damon Darlin, Darlin argues that technology doesn't give us road-blocks, it's our reaction to technological advances that's giving us road blocks. Darlin also suggests that while there are new programs or technologies that help us increase our productivity, there are just as many programs that demand more of our attention and time.
"In a knowledge-based society in which knowledge is free, attention becomes the valued commodity."
"Two distinct yet related factors deserve to be particularly highlighted. These are, on the one hand, the broad move from the now centuries-long dominance of writing to the new dominance of the image and, on the other hand, the move from the dominance of the medium of the book to the dominance of the medium of the screen. These two together are producing a revolution in the uses and effects of literacy and of associated means for representing and communicating at every level and in every domain. Together they raise two questions: what is the likely future of literacy, and what are the likely larger-level social and cultural effects of that change?"
In "The Futures of Literacy," Gunther Kress takes a look at the relationship between writing and 'the image,' as well as the shift from physical books to visuals/text on a screen. Kress brings forth multiple ideas, including the thought that "language will increasingly be displaced by image in many domains of public communication, though writing will remain the preferred mode of political and cultural elites." Overall, Kress stresses that changes will have the "widest imaginable political, economic, social, cultural, conceptual/cognitive and epistemological consequences."
REAL-WORLD EXAMPLE: "Widescope" by Jan Holmevik
EXCURSION: Affinity Spaces and Gee - How are they different from Discourses?
REAL-WORLD EXAMPLE: "Writing is a Technology That Restructures Thought" by Walter Ong
The Rise of Writing
"The scholar Walter J. Ong once speculated that television and similar media are taking us into an era of 'secondary orality,' akin to the primary orality that existed before the emergence of text." (Caleb Crain, "Twilight of the Books")
In this article, Caleb Crain discusses why we don't read as much anymore, and the changes that come along with the shift from 'books' to other pieces of technology. Crain also discusses the parallels between technology and a child's education, saying that there's a connection between children who are limited a set amount of television time and children who are more successful in elementary school and beyond. (Less TV time = More success.) However, other studies argue this, and it sometimes clouds the truth behind technology and education.
"The internet, happily, does not so far seem to be antagonistic to literacy. Researchers recently gave Michigan children and teen-agers home computers in exchange for permission to monitor their Internet use. The study found that grades and reading scores rose with the amount of time spent online. Even visits to Pornography web sites improved academic performance." (Crain 8)
Affinity spaces are "places where people interact around a common passion. They can be real world or virtual world, internet sites (fanfiction sites, for example) or in virtual worlds (like role playing games like Second Life.)" (Gee)
Some Common Characteristics of
Affinity Spaces:
People populate Affinity spaces by choice; they are there because they share common interests and goals.
People with different skill levels can populate Affinity spaces.
Some people contribute lots of information, and other contribute little to none. People are allowed to "roam free."
An Affinity space has lots of powerful tools to do the work of the space. These tools can be modified by people to accommodate diverse ways of learning.
There is lots of socialization!
Even though reading - whether it be for pleasure or otherwise - seems to be decreasing in today's world, the act of writing is growing every day. Why would that be? And what happens when people write, but they don't read? (Or even vice-versa; what do we get out of one act that we don't get out of the other?) Deborah Brandt mentions on a PRX podcast titled "The Rise of Writing" that there's a certain romantic viewpoint that comes with writing, even though it's often a fairly "mundane" task. Is writing an art? Is the 'allure' of being a writer keeping the art afloat?
Today, we are in a "culture of acceleration." This means that we're always fighting to have the best technology and to take in as much information as possible. Because of this acceleration, there's an immense amount of pressure put on us to learn and 'do' as fast/as much as humanly possible. This can lead to information overload, defined as the negative impact that the accumulation of technology/speed has on our culture. (Keller 70)
Fast Rhetoric
vs. Slow Rhetoric
In "Chasing Literacy" by Daniel Keller, Keller defines 'fast rhetoric' as the 'use of digital technology' - such as instant messaging, e-mail, and the Internet. 'Slow rhetoric' is defined as something that is normally taught in schools and it's more formal than 'fast rhetoric' - ex. projects or essays. This shows the juxtaposition of today's 'fast' culture and the culture of the past.
is the act of selecting content when reading that fits the reader’s goals and expectations. Because there's a lot of information online, there is a higher degree of selectivity in comparison to information on paper.
is the act of shifting between different 'depths' of material and different reading speeds. Somebody could speed-read through something light, but they could also
stop to read something in-depth (or any
combination in-between.)
is considered to be a purposeful 'wandering' across different texts, which is useful if you want to collect different information from a variety of sources.
Deep Attention
vs. Hyper Attention
Keller also addresses the differences between 'hyper' and 'deep' attention. Hyper attention consists of the desire to have multiple information outlets and a low-tolerance for boredom. Deep attention is a sustained focus on a single object, and it's great for solving complex problems or critically analyzing a text. Hyper attention is different in this way because it's not an ideal mindset for critical thinking, but it also differs from deep attention because it comes with a high level of alertness and response that does not come with deep attention.
Remixing is taking one idea, whether it be a photo or a piece of writing, and turning it into a different artistic endeavor. This is commonly seen in writing 'fan-fiction,' a story where a writer borrows characters from one or more stories (books, movies, etc.) and creates a new story with these characters. Fan-fiction is a massive online culture that holds millions of different stories - some are detailed and mimic the length of real books, and others are much shorter and more succinct. Nevertheless, fan-fiction communities are a great example of an Affinity Space.
There are many theories regarding the ways that writing and the invention of the alphabet restructured and changed the way that we think and build our own worlds. This chart shows the differences between Orality and Literacy, and how it affects our world.
Primary and Secondary Orality
Primary orality
is described as a society or culture that is untouched by alphabetic literacy and reading/writing. They have no tools for communication.

Secondary orality
is the re-emergence of an oral discourse that relies on a literate discourse. Secondary orality is dependent on reading/writing and technologies that enable literacy (the Internet, podcasts, etc.)
The Gutenberg Parenthesis suggests that the period of time between the years 1500-2000 (since the invention of the printing press) was defined by ideas of individual composition and textuality, and these ideas 'interrupted' the arc of human communication. Today, this theory suggests that the digital age we're in today isn't necessarily a giant step forward, but instead a return back to ideas that were key in oral communities.
Gutenberg Parenthesis (cont.)
The time before the printing press, 'orality,' was a time of fluidity and 'the uncontained.' Plays, speeches, songs, etc. weren't always written down, and were easily shared orally between people. Things weren't so concrete. With the invention of the printing press, stories and texts became more permanent and more 'contained.' Since it was on paper, it was 'forever.' The printing press gave agency and authority to documents, even if they didn't really deserve it. In today's world, we see the digital age bringing forth more fluid and less 'contained' modes of communication.
Do we rely on the internet too much? Does the internet replace our learning process with a quick search? Do we even learn with help from the internet?
In "Is Google Making us Stupid?" by Nicholas Carr, Carr suggests the controversial idea that "our own intelligence is being flattened into artificial intelligence" due to the technological world around is. Carr fears that even though advancements can benefit our society, unforeseen issues can crop up if we use Google or the Internet as our intellectual crutch.
"For me, as for others, the Net is becoming a universal medium, the conduit for most of the information that flows through my eyes and my ears and into my mind... As the media theorist Marshall McLuhan pointed out in the 1960s, media are not just passive channels of information. They supply stuff of thought, but they also shape the process of thought." (Carr 1)
“'We are not only what we read,'” says Maryanne Wolf, a developmental psychologist at Tufts University and the author of Proust and the Squid: The Story and Science of the Reading Brain. 'We are how we read.' Wolf worries that the style of reading promoted by the Net, a style that puts “efficiency” and “immediacy” above all else, may be weakening our capacity for the kind of deep reading that emerged when an earlier technology, the printing press, made long and complex works of prose commonplace." (Carr 2)
"In Google's view, information is a kind of commodity, a utilitarian resource that can be mined and processed with industrial efficiency. The more pieces of information we can 'access,' and the faster we can extract their gist, the more productive we become as thinkers." (Carr 5)
"The last thing these companies want is to encourage leisurely reading or slow, concentrated thought. It's in their economic interest to drive us to distraction." (Carr 6)
"Perhaps those who dismiss critics of the Internet as Luddites or nostalgists will be proved correct, and from our hyperactive, data-stoked minds will spring a golden age of intellectual discovery and universal wisdom. Then again, the Net isn’t the alphabet, and although it may replace the printing press, it produces something altogether different." (Carr 6)
"The expression 'writing and reading' violates the habitual rhythm of our tongues. We usually say 'reading and writing,' so it sounds as though I'm putting the cart before the horse. But I call writing the horse. Nothing can be read unless it was first written."
"First graders are not well positioned for reading: they can read only the words they have learned to read or sound out - a fairly small lexicon. But they are beautifully positioned for writing: they can write all the words they can say. Even younger children who don't know they alphabet can write if they have seen other people write: they just scribble, scribble, scribble - but with meaning, and they can "read" their writing back to you. All that's needed is to invite them to use invented spelling or kid spelling, whatever letters come easily ... Very young children can write before they can read, can write more than they can read, and can write more easily than they can read - because they can write anything they can say."
With print being left in the dust, should we embrace technology now more than ever>?
In "The Deep Space of Digital Reading" by Paula LaFarge, Lafarge explores digital reading and why we shouldn't resist the idea of leaving print behind. LaFarge also calls Carr's viewpoint into question, and suggests that Carr isn't so correct when it comes to our Internet/media consumption.
"The Internet’s flood of information, together with the distractions of social media, threaten to overwhelm the interior space of reading, stranding us in what the journalist Nicholas Carr has called “the shallows,” a frenzied flitting from one fact to the next. In Carr’s view, the “endless, mesmerizing buzz” of the Internet imperils our very being: “One of the greatest dangers we face,” he writes, “as we automate the work of our minds, as we cede control over the flow of our thoughts and memories to a powerful electronic system, is ... a slow erosion of our humanness and our humanity ... There’s no question that digital technology presents challenges to the reading brain, but, seen from a historical perspective, these look like differences of degree, rather than of kind." (LaFarge 2)
"To the extent that digital reading represents something new, its potential cuts both ways. Done badly (which is to say, done cynically), the Internet reduces us to mindless clickers, racing numbly to the bottom of a bottomless feed; but done well, it has the potential to expand and augment the very contemplative space that we have prized in ourselves ever since we learned to read without moving our lips." (LaFarge 2)
"The Internet may cause our minds to wander off, and yet a quick look at the history of books suggests that we have been wandering off all along. When we read, the eye does not progress steadily along the line of text; it alternates between saccades—little jumps—and brief stops, not unlike the movement of the mouse’s cursor across a screen of hypertext. From the invention of papyrus around 3000 B.C., until about 300 A.D., most written documents were scrolls, which had to be rolled up by one hand as they were unrolled by the other: a truly linear presentation. Since then, though, most reading has involved codices, bound books or pamphlets, a major advantage of which (at least compared to the scroll) is that you can jump around in them, from chapter to chapter (the table of contents had been around since roughly the first century B.C.); from text to marginal gloss, and, later, to footnote." (LaFarge 3)
"It’s true that studies have found that readers given text on a screen do worse on recall and comprehension tests than readers given the same text on paper. But a 2011 study by the cognitive scientists Rakefet Ackerman and Morris Goldsmith suggests that this may be a function less of the intrinsic nature of digital devices than of the expectations that readers bring to them. Ackerman and Goldsmith note that readers perceive paper as being better suited for 'effortful learning,' whereas the screen is perceived as being suited for 'fast and shallow reading of short texts such as news, e-mails, and forum notes.'" (LaFarge 4-5)
"The history of reading suggests that what we’re presently experiencing is probably not the end times of human thought. It’s more like an interregnum, or the crouch before a leap. Wolf points out that when it comes to reading, what we get out is largely what we put in. “The reading brain circuit reflects the affordances of what it reads,” she notes: affordances being the built-in opportunities for interaction. The more we skim, the more we’re likely to keep skimming; on the other hand, the more we plunge into a text, the more we’re likely to keep plunging. “We’re in a digital culture,” Wolf says. “It’s not a question of making peace. We have to be discerning, vigilant, developmentally savvy.” And of course we have to be surprised, delighted, puzzled, even disturbed. We have to enjoy ourselves." (LaFarge 8)
What even is social reading? Why does it matter if people read or not in the first place? How does 'not reading' change the physical or cultural literacy world around us?
In "Yes, People Still Read, but Now It's Social" by Steven Johnson, Johnson insists that people still like to read, but because of technological advancements and the changing literate world, we tend to read differently in comparison to how we used to read. Johnson, like LaFarge, also brings up Carr's argument against technology and the Internet making us 'stupid,' and touches on why his ideas may or may not work.
"Amazon calls [highlighting within Kindle Books] 'popular highlights.' It may sound innocuous enough, but it augurs even bigger changes to come. Though the feature can be disabled by the user, 'popular highlights' will no doubt alarm Nicholas Carr, whose new book, “The Shallows,” argues that the compulsive skimming, linking and multitasking of our screen reading is undermining the deep, immersive focus that has defined book culture for centuries." (Johnson 1)
"To his credit, Mr. Carr readily concedes this efficiency argument. His concern is what happens to high-level thinking when the culture migrates from the page to the screen. To the extent that his argument is a reminder to all of us to step away from the screen sometimes, and think in a more sedate environment, it’s a valuable contribution. But Mr. Carr’s argument is more ambitious than that: the “linear, literary mind” that has been at “the center of art, science and society” threatens to become “yesterday’s mind,” with dire consequences for our culture. Here, too, I think the concerns are overstated, though for slightly different reasons." (Johnson 3)
"Mr. Carr spends a great deal of his book’s opening section convincing us that new forms of media alter the way the brain works, which I suspect most of his readers have long ago accepted as an obvious truth. The question is not whether our brains are being changed. (Of course new experiences change your brain — that’s what experience is, on some basic level.) The question is whether the rewards of the change are worth the liabilities." (Johnson 3)
"For society to advance as it has since Gutenberg, [Carr] argues, we need the quiet, solitary space of the book. Yet many great ideas that have advanced culture over the past centuries have emerged from a more connective space, in the collision of different worldviews and sensibilities, different metaphors and fields of expertise. (Gutenberg himself borrowed his printing press from the screw presses of Rhineland vintners, as Mr. Carr notes.)" (Johnson 3)
"One can make the case that the Enlightenment depended more on the exchange of ideas than it did on solitary, deep-focus reading. Quiet contemplation has led to its fair share of important thoughts. But it cannot be denied that good ideas also emerge in networks." (Johnson 4)
How is writing more prevalent than reading today? What does that matter? In what ways is writing overshadowing reading, especially since reading has been the main source of literacy for so long?
In "Deep Writing: New Directions in Mass Literacy" by Deborah Brandt, Brandt delivers new insight into how writing has trumped reading when it comes to literacy, and how more and more people are keeping writing alive by doing things that are seemingly 'every-day tasks.' Brandt also talks about the various relationships between writing and reading, and how even though one seems to outshine the other, we can't write without reading (and vice-versa.)
"'Writing - paid and unpaid - is keeping this economy, especially the Internet economy, afloat. While it would have been difficult to fathom even 15 years aho how people could be writing more than reading, it is indeed happening for many. This shift represents a new, uncharted and, for some, unsettling stage in the history of mass literacy, one with serious social, political and cultural implications for which we are unprepared." (Brandt 2)
"In the information economy, reading proceeds functionally, as input leading to output, as workday writers convey, synthesize or formulate new information; monitor the writing of others (subordinates, peers, competitors); or use reading to hone or develop their own writing." (Brandt 6)
"Production demands can change reading habits, including among those who manage the writing of others." (Brandt 7)
"Reading to write in school has usually meant using reading to stimulate ideas for writing or else incorporating written sources into writing for academic purposes. But in the wider world, reading to write actually stands for a broader, more diverse, more diffused and more sustained set of practices... more and more reading experiences take place now from within the writing role." (Brandt 7)
"I have been arguing that we are at a critical crossroad in the history of mass literacy in which relationships between writing and reading are undergoing profound change. Writing is overtaking reading as the skill of critical consequence. The rise of writing has been accompanied and stimulated by changes in communication technology, notably the rise of the Web. But the two much not be conflated." Brandt 10)
How do we define each of Ulmer's apparatuses in his electracy theory? How does each theory bounce off of each other, and how do they connect?
In "Widescope" by Jan Holmevik, Holmevik discusses each of Ulmer's ten apparatuses and how they connect to each other. Holmevik also touches on the idea of 'play,' and how we should associate 'work' with 'play' in a new, unique dichotomy.
"In my work I have consistently sought opportunities to integrate work and play in both industry and academia. Research has, however, always formed the foundation on which work and play coexisted for me ... It is my aim to reconnect play and reflection by means of electracy but also (as Ulmer aims to do) to invent electracy by means of play." (Holmevik 1-2)
"... Ulmer writes that electracy is relative to orality and literacy as a new apparatus (a social machine, part technological, and part institutional) that 'is to digital media what literacy is to print.'" (Holmevik 2)
"In popular discourse, both academic and otherwise, the term
digital literacy
is frequently used to describe the skill set that new digital media require. This is not simply a matter of what some might claim to be terminological convenience. It is a dangerous grammatological misappropriation on the part of the Literati that, in a very real Foucaultian sense, attempts to name and relegate new digital media forms as subjugated practices to the old print media discourses and its established literate institutions." (Holmevik 4)
"Orality did not go out of vogue or cease to exist when literacy emerged; similarly, literacy will not disappear or be replaced by electracy ... Similarly, writing will not lose its importance or prominence either." (Holmevik 5)
"In Applied Grammatology, Ulmer focuses on how 'Derrida systematically explores the nondiscursive levels - images, puns, or models and homophones - as an alternative mode of composition and thought applicable to academic work, or rather, play.' (Ulmer 1985, xi.) The word 'play' in Derrida's thought has been one of the main criticisms of his work over the years... Juxtoposing serious academic work and play, rather blurring the boundary between these two registers of work, astonished Ulmer."
In "Writing is a Technology that Restructures Thought" by Walter J. Ong, Ong compares the facets of oral and written cultures to each other, and he discusses how writing is a major technology that we usually don't consider when we think of the word 'technology.'
Why is it hard for us to consider 'writing' as a technology? What are some ways that writing and technology connect, and how are they opposites?
"The fact that we do not commonly feel the influence of writing on our thoughts shows that we have interiorized the technology of writing so deeply that without tremendous effort we cannot separate it from ourselves or even recognize its presence and influence." (Ong 1)
"In downgrading writing, Plato was thinking of writing as an external, alien technology, as many people today think of the computer ... we find it difficult to consider writing to be a technology as we commonly assume printing and the computer to be. Yet writing (and especially alphabetic writing) is a technology, calling for the use of tools and other equipment..." (Ong 3)
"Print and electronics continue with new intensification and radical transformations the diaeretic programme initially set in motion by writing. They separate knower from known more spectacularly than writing does." (Ong 6)
"As a time-obviating, context-free mechanism, writing separates the known from the knower more definitely than the original orally grounded maneuver of naming does, but it also unites the knower and the known more consciously and more articulately. Writing is a consciousness-raising and humanizing technology." (Ong 7)
What did we learn about literacy?
It wouldn't be wrong if somebody classified "literacy" as the ability to read and write, but there's so many more branches and categories to literacy than that. Literacy has branches that contain information on synthesizing information, discovering yourself, and even a branch that understands that literacy is different around the world. Literacy still has some aspects of it that stayed consistant over time, but because of the changing world around us, bits and pieces of literacy have changed to adapt to our society. Nevertheless, literacy will always be a prominent part of our self, regardless of how we utilize it.
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