Friday, November 11, 2016

Making Literacy, Media, Technology

The idea of celebrating the materialisation of a book in print form might at first glance appear to be rather anachronistic. After all, in this era of online publishing, most of our words are 'out there' before any publishers' ink hits the page. But somehow or other receiving one's advance copy is still a rich experience. Not only does it represent completion, that it is, at least in some sense of the word, finished, that the labour is over - perhaps even, in retrospect, that it was worth it after all, no matter what one felt at the time, or at various stages on the way, but also and perhaps more importantly that it has become a thing, something more tangible, something with a particular heft, a particular look and so on. I feel the same about journal articles, and even though I have my name on a number that I've never seen as published, in amongst other contributions, or in the particular issues in which they 'appeared', I usually have a print-off, because that's the next best thing. Julia Gillen has teased me about this in private, but I suspect that she might agree that somehow online first is a bit of a shadow - more correctly a foreshadow, of the real thing. Or perhaps real is the wrong word altogether, it's maybe just that we live in a world of different kinds of objects, and that print forms have their own place in this order of things. This is a key point in the book Literacy, Media, Technology that I'm referring to. The book is an edited collection, and the subtitle: Past, Present and Future presented an opportunity for Becky Parry, Cathy Burnett and myself to interrogate that linearity, the slow and inexorable passage of time or the mad dash into the future - or whatever version of the progressive modernist narrative that you might subscribe to. Things can only get better? Maybe. But actually things co-exist, they resonate back and forth in interesting ways. And so, we take a stand against that popular phrase 'the future has arrived', opting instead for a view that it just hasn't happened yet. In a way we're more interested in the present and the way it is infused by the way things were and our ideas of what they might become. But apart from all of this, the excellent chapters, written by some of the finest academics in the field, are in conversation with one another, and in the final stages of the editing process it seemed as if they had something new to say about the inter-relationships between literacy, media and technology, at least to gesture towards a new conceptualisation of their interconnectedness, an interconnectedness that was always there but had to be found, and had never been fully articulated before. It feels good to hold on to that, and at least as good as holding the book itself, as a thing.