Sunday, July 08, 2007
The mighty book
This weekend I have been listening to some familiar conversations about the pleasure of being lost in a book. The privileging of the book in our conceptions of literacy is persistent but not altogether helpful. Despite the perceived value of sustained and immersive reading, it has to be acknowledged that this is a cultural construct, a pleasurable activity that has become reified as a high status literacy practice. Whatever the benefits of immersive book-reading may turn out to be, in much educational discourse they have a tendency to overshadow the fact that demanding and purposeful uses of literacy in everyday life, however lightweight they may seem in comparison, are nevertheless highly significant social practices. This seems to be particularly true in the case of new literacies and technologically-mediated social networking.
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Since childhood I have been an avid reader, and I love getting lost in a book - reading a big long novel all day is my perfect idea of a holiday. Luckily reading is a high status literary practice, otherwise I would have been classified as an addict already when I was a teenager. DVDs make it possible to get immersed in film or TV in a similar manner though. I have spent an entire Christmas holiday watching two seasons of Buffy back to back with family, and more recently watching entire seasons of Lost with friends, which means watching about 6 or 8 hours in one go. Talk about getting lost! OK, it is not Tolstoi, Proust or Joyce, but the experience is very similar to getting immersed in excessive reading. As a shared experience it is tremendous, unlike anything I have experienced before.
Thanks for your interesting comments. I'm keen to separate out our ideas of immersive reading; books and literature; and the concept of literacy. I love your description of immersion or absorption, and the observation that it applies to a whole range of texts including print and moving image, both popular and canonic. Like you I value these experiences. In my post I was keen to point out that they are not the be all and end all of literacy as a social practice - and I say this as a died in the wool Proustian!
I agree :-)
Oh great! I thought for a minute that we were on a different wavelength. We need a broad enough definition to include 'literacy as getting lost' as well as 'literacy as getting things done'. Thanks for your comments, Sigrid. :)
Absolutely! By the way, I have downloaded your paper "Digital writing in the early years". Is this the chapter of a book or has it been published elsewhere? How would you like me to cite it?
It's a chapter from: D.Leu,J.Coiro,M.Knobel and C.Lankshear (in press) 'A Hanbook for New Literacies Research' Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum - due for publication in November.
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