Thursday, October 15, 2015

New mobile literacies

I hope there will be a good audience for my talk on Sunday. It's called 'New Mobile Literacies' and here's a bit of a taster. ....Mobility is one of those signature themes of early 21st Century living. On a macro scale we are preoccupied with the movement of people, whether it takes the form of the ‘migrant crisis’ that has tested Europe’s ability to act with humanity, the contagion and spread of Ebola that has troubled the medical community, illegal border crossings and their generational legacy, or the carbon footprint left by mass tourism and big business. Within liberal democracies we agonise about social mobility, about the rising gap between rich and poor. At a local level about the ability of the transport infrastructure to get people from A to B, and with our growing sensitivity to disability, and ageing, how access and mobility can be enhanced. None of these are new to the 21st Century, but a concept of ‘mobilities’ sensitizes us to how we put ourselves about, how we get around, who moves where, and how. So how do any of these instances of mobility connect with our idea of literacies? Perhaps the answer lies in something that has always intrigued me, the other dictionary definition of communication. It’s the second in my Concise Oxford, in which communication is described as ‘a means of connecting different places, such as a door, passage, road or railway’. Then communication, by whichever definition, always implies a sort of movement, whether that is a movement of people, things or ideas. Yes, a mobility. And if this holds true we could argue that all literacies are in some way mobile. If that is the case, no need to go on, except of course, for the fact that we  see rather a lot of people wandering about holding these things, these rectangular objects of different sizes – talking to them, tapping them, stroking them as if they were pets. Maybe you do the same, temporarily stashing a phone in your back pocket as you walk along or rummaging around in the dark recesses of a bag to locate the pulsing feel of an incoming call?

Saturday, October 10, 2015


In a current writing project we've been exploring Bennet's notion of enchantment - eloquently developed in her book The Enchantment of Modern Life (2001). Bennet has become a bit of an academic superstar, and most people seem to rave about Vibrant Matter which apart having a cover design to die for is, in my humble opinion, not nearly so good. Although the argument about a politic of enchantment is hard to sustain, it can work. In an educational context, I think we may have resolved it adequately if somewhat simply. Here I'll just put it in a sort of aphorism - better to be enchanted by the inventiveness of children than fall under the spell of a stultifying curriculum. It all stems from a simple question. How can we, as educators work with teachers who are labouring under the dead hand of a one-size-fits-all lockstep curriculum driven by a draconian regime of accountability? To me it seems that most teachers are attracted to the profession because they are interested and inspired by children, by watching them play and learn, and being with them and not by measuring their progress against arbitrary measures. If we can re-orientate towards some basic professional values, or become re-enchanted by the actions and activity of young children we unlock what Bennet would call 'virtual possibilities'.