I was reading a chapter called Looking from the Inside In: Academic Blogging as New Literacy by Julia Davies and Guy Merchant from the New Literacies Sampler and enjoyed the take on academic blogging and the multimodalities that come along with blogging. The new literacies involved in crafting and interpreting these multimodal works as visual constructs. A lot of this was fostered by my recent participation/lurking with the #Change11 MOOC, which greatly emphasizes social interaction and navigation, a grand exercise in sensemaking on a large, often chaotic scale. But back to the academic blogging (as a vehicle for sensemaking). 

Another useful perspective on blogging as a social practice comes from paying closer attention to text,design and communication. New digital technologies invoke new ways of meaning-making,and these challenge the authority of the book and the printed page as dominant sites for representation (Kress 2003). The socio-semiotic approach developed by Kress (1997,2000,2003) has led us to careful consideration of the characteristics of screen-based communication. His work has highlighted the affordances of the screen and the facilities of different media. And this in turn has helped us to understand the visual and not just the alphabetic nature of the texts displayed on a computer screen, and how the characteristics of these screen texts differ from those of the page.A growing academic emphasis on the materiality of new textual forms has shifted our attention to the multimodal design features of screen texts as primarily visual constructs (171).

Yes, indeed this is a new literacy, this multimodality. It is a complexity of representation (multiple types of media) laced over a traditionally complex form of communication (language is already an abstraction of complexity). This has been well documented, even if I feel the term literacy is chucked around a little too often. I think we should just generally agree that a broader definition is best for what it means to be literate in this day and age. I think I tend to see many of these new literacies as social navigation issues, the ability to interact, navigate, and to derive value from both oneself and one’s affinity group/community/network. The ability to even construct a sensemaking network in the first place, to derive value from a disaggregated learning construct (where the individual most likely is not the head). A little nod to connectivism there.

My agile lurking (I am telling you this is going to be all the rage soon is open learning) lets me pick at the conversations of interest, withdraw or keep only partially engaged, reflect, and return with some perceived understanding in which to inject into the larger conversation. Like a party where everyone is perpetually mingling, but every so often I retreat to the coatroom to catch my breath. This catching my breath usually happens here on this blog (or in other blogs that I maintain). All well and good. I produce content, whether a post (likely), images, video, and even audio. I repurpose other’s content (a YouTube embed, etc.), share it, push it along, drop it into conversations in my learning communities. This is social navigation to a degree, this understanding and social agility to know where content wants to go to derive momentum as a learning agent. 

I argue here (in a rather roundabout way) that repurposing content for multiple streams/networks is a real exercise in agility and nuance. That a video I made for one project might add value to another, but from a different contextual perspective. A blog post at least originally motivated or engineered for #Change11 might add value to #mlearning or #mscel or any number of loosely organized learning communities I participate in. So, there is a social engagement issue here that requires a certain skill, not just for conversational interaction (which essentially blogs are, conversational/discussion pieces), but also for providing value/utility. A network dynamic intelligence to understand what Network A needs is Content B. A product manager approach to optimizing learning flow through learning networks. 

I don’t claim to have this gift, but I strongly believe that repurposing original (or even borrowed) content designed for Community A (say, #Change11) and embedding that in Community B or C distributes impact, has a nice cascading effect (this all assumes the content has quality). I rarely write/create for one stream (except for work, perhaps) and actively find a large part of the work of creating content is the distribution mechanisms for releasing that content. A literacy? Not sure, but certainly a social intelligence on what provides value, what will make an impact, what will transcend its original design. Perhaps the same intelligence for understanding the potential impact of future memes. Some of these will spark windfalls of learning and interaction; others will thump to the floor and their failure will be deafening. Both learning experiences. 

This rolls right into a literacy of identity management, to know what you are sharing and with who and how that might be used, but this particular post steers more towards content as learning factor, something that might not have agency onto itself, but certainly provides a catalyst for agency. Content greases the rails, so to speak (assuming those rails have no proscribed direction) and learning where and when to inject content into interaction is a real skill. Better yet, how to do this across learning communities and streams (without vanity or merely as a promotional exercise). To understand how what we create or share advances the discussion. Literacy perhaps, but it is more agile than that. Not to only understand and interpret, but to act and inject. 


By Michael Gallagher

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

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