1.What’s in this title?
Three key words. Three words which means our first stop on this literacy journey is Richard Ohmann.
- Why is time so important?
Ohmann takes his reader on a journey back in time: “By coincidence–or maybe not–the term ‘literacy’ came into use roughly at the beginning of the epoch of monopoly capital. A word about the transformation I have in mind: in the mid- and late-nineteenth century, competitive capitalism ran its energetic course, building a huge industrial system with unparalleled speed.” (702)
This idea of speed and time surfaces again in Gifford Brooke’s “New Media” chapter in A Guide to Composition Pedagogies: “Making space in our classrooms for this kind of work [new media] requires us to negotiate among the different pace implied by our institutions and our technologies, and this can mean preparing our students to move with ease from ‘class time’ to ‘Internet time'” (182).
This idea of time is further expanded (or is exploded a better metaphorical term here?) by Anne Frances Wysocki and Johndan Johnson-Eilola in “Blinded by the Letter: Why are We Using Literacy as a Metaphor for Everything Else?”:
“Begin here, in a linear flow of text that suggests a flow of time, by imagining what literacy might be if we conceived it primarily as a spatial relation to information. Although literacy has long been bound up with spaces (consider the geopolitical stories in the bundles we discussed above/earlier, for example), literacy changes profoundly if we choose to prioritize space over time.” (731)
“In one way of looking, then, this is not just about privileging space over time, but about time and space collapsing into each other…and if we can work as though times does not ration out what we can do, then we can work as though space doesn’t either: with new communication technologies, space, like information, can become less something we experience and more something we simply work with/in, making creative connections and reconnections.” (733)
“Making creative connections and reconnections” is perhaps how I have always tried to define writing. I like to write because I like to make connections, and I have heard myself tell many classes, “As a writer, your job is to connect the dots, whatever the dots may be.”
For me, writing has (mainly) been a fun challenge, an opportunity to play (with language, with ideas). And I think this foundation of play is why I, despite my complicated relationship with technology, am continually drawn to the field of Computers and Writing.
Last semester, I was in a group project where we presented on the field of Computers and Writing. The idea of play kept coming up over and over and over in the literature. Thus, in the spirit of play, we decided to use Twitter as our presentation medium to reflect that play. (If you want to learn a little more about the field from some non-experts from last semester, check out the report by starting at #GradScholFieldReportCW)
- Who can play?
First, an excerpt from my Graduate Scholarship paper from last semester:
“In Play, Playfulness, Creativity, and Innovation, Patrick Bateson, an expert on the development of behavior, and Paul Martin, a behavioral biologist, maintain that play leads to creativity, which in turn can lead to innovation, although it is not necessarily a natural progression. Bateson and Martin explain, ‘Creativity is displayed when an individual develops a novel form of behaviour or a novel idea, regardless of its practical uptake and subsequent application. Innovation means implementing a novel form of behaviour or an idea in order to obtain a practical benefit which is then adopted by others’ (3).”
Second, “innovation” seems to be a ubiquitously popular buzzword lately, or at least in the education articles I am reading. However, I cannot help but wonder who is allowed to play. Who gets to experiment in the classrooms? This question reminds me of Ann Johns article when she talks about experts in a discourse community pushing back and of Peter Elbow “Inviting the Mother Tongue” into the classroom and finding his students wrote adventurously (which I read as they played with norms, with conventions).
But again, I ask the question, who gets to play? Who gets to innovate? Who has that access?
- What does literacy mean?
Anne Frances Wysocki and Johndan Johnson-Eilola ask their readers to think critically about literacy and all the “bundles.” In an early “bundle” from a small sampling of literacy promises, they noted: “It is thus a large but not unruly bundle that comes with ‘literacy’: John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart, the taming of the U.S. west, democracy, an upgraded workforce, less welfare dependency, our forms of production and social organization, science, and philosophy” (720).
Literacy sounds like the answer to the world’s problems from that angle. But is literacy the answer to the world’s problems? Doubtful. (Although most assuredly helpful in the process)
What is literacy even?
In a conversation in a teacher’s lounge halfway across the state a few years back, I remember having a conversation with my former colleague who had just been to a conference.
“What did you take away from the conference?” I asked.
“Today’s literacy,” she said, “is to be able to learn, unlearn, and to learn again.”
That sounds a little (or a lot) like play to me.
Bateson, Patrick and Paul Martin. Play, Playfulness, Creativity, and InnovationCambridge: Cambridge UP, 2013. Print.