Week 1: New Literacies

Lankshear and Knobel (2007) Ch1: Sampling the “New” in New Literacies: Critique

Sampling the “New” in New Literacies discusses what constitutes new literacies. It defines literacy from socio-cultural perspective, in terms of literacy as a social practice and the role of literacy as a component of a mind set. New literacies in a broader framework can briefly be summarized as the practices occurring in the cyberspace such as blogging, instant messaging, sharing of digital media components, etc. also, the more the literacy involves sharing and collaboration, innovation and participation, the more it is regarded as “new”. New literacies are not only new digital practices derived from new technologies. They involve two components, the new technologies, called “new technological stuff” as well as “new ethos stuff”. The “new ethos stuff” is discussed in terms of collaboration and sharing of new tools and technologies as well as the act of participation.

“New Literacies” are also discussed as shifts in mindset. Lankshear and Knobel distinguish two different mindsets: the “physical-industrial” mindset and the “cyberspacial-postindustrial” mindset. Those mindsets are ways of people looking at the world, the economic production, the values, and the social relations. Thus, the first is associated with viewing the world as “centered”, the individual as the holder or owner of information and products as material artifacts. Compared to this mindset, the second one holds the “new ethos stuff”. It constitutes in viewing the world in multidimensional physical-cyber space, “decentered”, the individual as the participant in the information flow, as a contributor to an open, flexible and evolving space. this second mindset is what the authors associate with the “new literacies”.

It is hard to agree but also to disagree with Lankshear and Knobel on the definition and components of “new” literacies. Literacies are discussed in a broad framework through the definitions of Discourses (Gee, 1996), mindsets and technologies and ethos that characterizes the active participation in practices enabled by new tools and technologies. However, it is hard to distinguish the difference between the elements of participation as new literacies in the context of the cyberspacial-postindustrial mindset. For example, in the “New” as Historical, manga-anime fan practices are described and defined as “new literacies”. Although, they are regarded as new ethos, the new technology was the missing component that would define them as new literacies in relevance to time. Such practices had the component of sharing and collaborating but not the new digital component as collaborating in the cyberspace or access to. This description however, contradicts the statement that new literacies are only defined when both components exist: the new ethos and the new technological stuff. such discrepancies make it difficult to truly buy into the concept of new literacies as defined here. On a broader spectrum, I do agree with the view of new literacies aligned with the new identities through language expression or as Gee calls them Discourses. I agree with the Discourses being viewed in terms of the new cyberspace-postindustrial mindset that constitutes the new literacies. So theoretically, the framework and definitions make sense. However, when examples are derived, there is a discrepancy between theory and practice. If blogging with the intent of collaboration and sharing using a Web 2.0 tool is considered a new literacy, how is writing letters to a friend using a typewriter that are later published in the public domain considered, such as Rilke’s letters to Franz Kappus for instance. This may not be a very good example but what I mean is that new literacies are missing the value from the definition. If the mindset, ethos and technologies are the defining elements, then one can argue that the only difference is the time relevance. The typewriter was a new technology, perhaps a different type of ink was a new technology, mailing through the post office was a new technology and sharing with friends has the intent of the “new ethos”. Was that a new literacy practice? And what are the values of the new “new” literacies today, how do they effect us and what impact do they have on us?