Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Literacies in place

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In a previous post I wrote about the emphasis on place and space that characterised the CSNL conference, and this thread continued through the UKLA International Conference in Winchester. In the Focus Day, which addressed multilingual/plurilingual issues it was an everpresent theme right from Christine Helot's explorations of language politics and pedagogy in Alsace to Dina Mehmedbegovic's nuanced look at place-referenced autobiographical writing in London schools. Although the International Conference keynotes didn't directly reference the significance of location, Barbara Comber returned to the theme with a delightful exploration of place-based pedagogies. The critical literacies symposium which included Hilary Janks and Helen Nixon provided more illustrations of the significance of place and its interconnections across time and space through the stories of the cameleers - the Afgani migrants to Adelaide. Since I've been thinking about what happens to geosemiotic approaches when virtual space overlaps or annotates a physical space, this provided me with an alternative perspective in the sense that the particularity of place is always infused with stories from elsewhere whether in terms of personal/family narratives or other texts. And so Margaret Mackey's poignant auto-bibliography, her own multimodal literacy history, illustrated this in another way. Part of her experience growing up in Newfoundland was simply about family, that most personal space, but then the influence of books and TV with a distinctly North American feel showed how that took 'place' in a wider socio-historical context. But Roy Rogers (and Trigger), the Lone Ranger (and Silver) had a much wider currency. I was struck by the way in which these TV narratives with their proto-global distribution became loaclised. As Margaret was crawling through wet grass of semi-rural Canada, I was riding the arms of a sofa in urban England - both of us embodying those cowboy narratives of the 1950s in different ways and anchoring them to the spaces we variously inhabited using, of course, the materials at hand to make our different meanings. In a rather different way, Dylan Yamada-Rice had already pointed us to the specifics of place-as-text through her fascinating visual explorations of London and Tokyo. Google StreetView makes the particularity of place instantly and globally available as the image above shows. Here I'm captured pruning the holly tree at home last summer - virtual space overlaps and annotates physical space!


Julia Gillen said...

A beautifully written post, so much in it to think about.
Amazing photo - very challenging indeed.
It's funny really how much concern about surveillance fixed cameras have caused in comparison with how little really relating to google maps/earth (I know there was a brief flurry of concern). I suppose because the google enterprise has simply permeated peoples' lives as so useful.

Guy Merchant said...

Yes, maybe Google is inching beyond criticism and into becoming a 'fact of life'- an institution in its own right. What's interesting is that this made me (and the rest of the family) howl with laughter. It could be worse - after all, pruning the holly tree is hardly scandalous! But you could well imagine how it might have been the neighbour's tree or even something far more offensive (I think there have been some cases in the media). I think Google remove the images if you complain or object. But in the end I have to admit that I'm the sort of person that finds it hard to get enraged about surveillance cameras or for that matter the hysteria over internet safety - there are far more important things to worry about!