Thursday, June 02, 2011

Post-modern literacies

I'm reading a pre-publication version of Colin and Michele's New Literacies (3E) at the moment. The opening sections provide a really useful map to 'where we are' and 'how we got there' in literacy studies. They've just about got it right with a definition of literacies as 'socially recognized ways in which people generate, communicate and negotiate meanings, as members of Discourses through the medium of encoded texts'. I know it doesn't exactly trip off the tongue and I suppose that nearly every phrase needs translating (which is, as you'd expect, what haoppens in the book). I still have a problem with the social spread of new literacies and wonder to what extent the exciting practices which appear to be the popular everyday practices of children and young people are actually niche interests. On a more abstract level I enjoyed reading about Andreas Reckwitz's work on practice theories and made a note to follow this up. The football analogy reminded me of Bourdieu which sent me scurrying back to The Logic of Practice. Bourdieu, at least in the translations that I read, can be hard going, but one of his clearest pieces (Chapter 4 ibid) actually uses the football metaphor to good effect. But here he is on 'practice', the principle of which is found 'in the relationship between external constraints which leave a very variable margin for choice, and dispositions which are the product of economic and social processes that are more or less completely reducible to these constraints, as defined at a particular moment.' (p.50). That makes me think twice about agency in cultural (re)production and is something to pit against remix and participatory culture.