Remember when DrJoolz went to Venice and we were all green with envy?
Well look!!! LOOK!! Julia was thinking of me and shared her fun with me through giving me this beautiful present:
Then when we were together, we went shopping and bought the same sorts of pop culture bags:
Then on Friday evening, Michele, Guy and I all bought the same type of paper weight cube (Michele’s had fossils in it, and Guy and I have an Onyx cube) and we laughingly said that we should all put the paper weights on our desks and we’ll be reminded of our evening together in Miami every time we looked at them. Here’s mine:
It was if by owning the same artefact, we shared a collective identity: badges which symbolised a whole set of memories, experiences, conversations, beliefs, humour, and history. I am waiting for Guy to blog his cube as a metaphor of experience and interpersonal bonding so that I can read it and laugh and say “yes”, “I get it”. And I wonder if Julia and I have any shared readers who will notice the same images of our shopping expedition in each of our blogs and think “yes, those two people are connected”.
Meanwhile I am thinking of the semiotics of materiality, and wondering what metalanguage I can use to describe this bonding through shared artefacts: interpersonal resonance? And it isn’t just bonding in the here and now, but an artefact that ties us together in the future and will invoke memory and history. And the Venetian mask - like any present I suppose - is a way of providing a bridge between Julia’s experience and our friendship. Is there such a thing as a theory of presents? Perhaps Kate will know how to theorise this.
Because I like to focus on the positives, there’s a lot I haven’t said about some of the conference impressions I’ve had, but… I really feel an obligation to say this:
Where was the original, groundbreaking theory?
It seemed to me that in so many of the sessions, people were citing the same experts and saying the same sorts of things. It’s like there is a canon of education/literacy experts and to get ahead in the field means that you quote each of the experts and say the same things as they did, agreeing, and making certain that what they say = what you think too. This pretty much drove me crazy and I was left wondering, “where are all the controversial and original thinkers?”, “where are the cross-disciplinary links?” “where are the people who are playing with NEW ideas?”. Most of the papers I mentioned in my previous post were doing fascinating things, but obviously there were a lot of other papers I attended that I didn’t blog about because well, they just said nothing new.
Thanks to Scott, I came across Chris Bigum’s blog, and I sooooo love this comment he posted:
Intellectually I am drawn to the loopy, the “enfant terribles” of the academic world. I figure that folk who keep repeating, reinforcing particular epsitemologies, ontologies are, more or less, intellecutal sycophants. We enjoy an enormously privileged position in being paid to think and also to contribute to the well-being of the citizens of this country/planet. Being an intellecutal “yes person” does not cut it. It seems to me that merely echoing others, acquiescing to the status quo mindsets is, effectively, squandering public monies. If we can’t convey to our students the importance of skepticism, curiosity and even bloody-minded resistance to status quo ideas then we don’t deserve the monies the public provide us. I hope there is no need to rehearse what status quo thinking has delivered to the youth of this and other countries.
Another trend that I saw was the critique and criticism angles. Personally I think schooling (at the broadest level, I am not talking about individual teachers) is a lost cause and the institution of schools will always be bigger and win out over what is happening with technology outside of schools. I don’t want to waste my time saying essentially “schools are bad” because well - what is the point? Rather, there are so many wonderful, exciting, fabulous and fascinating worlds that kids are inhabiting I want to invest my valuable time studying those things, celebrating the positive and theorising about what this means or could mean for the new generation of children and the teachers who can tap into their worlds. In taking a positive stance, I am really motivated by Jim Martin’s work - Jim always encourages what he terms a reorientation in critical thinking to what we might call Positive Discourse Analysis (PDA) - work which considers how people make the world a better place and designs interventions based on such considerations.
I want to grow up to be a great thinker - not somebody who was bound by playing some citation game where I get ahead because I am able to cite Jim Gee’s 36 learning principles (Which are fascinating and useful but they aren’t the only way to think about the world!). I would much prefer to be known as an academic ‘enfants terribles’ *grin*
And my first act of terribleness: I am not going to use the term “new literacies” any more (unless necessary) because its sooooo 20th century now - they aren’t new anymore - instead I am going to use another word - in 1997 I used the term cyberliteracies and I might even revert to that because I like the association with cyberpunk as rebelliousness and anarchy - fitting for “terribleness”, don’t you agree?
I wish I could have had a wireless laptop to live blog the conference because now that its over it feels rather odd doing a retrospective post. But as promised, here goes! Oh and a disclaimer: I was soo exhausted that I didn’t make as many sessions as I listed, and also, there was an unfortunate clash or two in the program which meant that I couldn’t listen to everybody I wanted to.
So, the first session I went to at the conference was Julia and Guy’s session about blogging:
Inside Out: academic blogging and new literacies, an autoethnography
Julia Davies and Guy Merchant
This was a fun session and I looooooved the aesthetics of the presentation, with gorgeous images and fun transitions. I was also cited, which was very flattering! I liked the way they moved quickly beyond the descriptive (how come so many conference presentations focussed on the descriptive only at the expense of theorisation and analysis???) and into the analysis of posts and comments, discussing theoretical issues and critiqueing notions of “affinity spaces” and “communities of practice” as far as they relate, and don’t relate, to the blogosphere. We had many casual conversations about blogs and identity and narrative after this presentation and I’ll be blogging more about those later! Anyway this was a great session and stimulated much discussion and thinking.
Next was our session:
Out of Bounds: Some social, psychological and pedagogical implications of new literacies for young people’s learning, lifeworlds and social futures.
Angela Thomas, Kevin Leander and Michele Knobel
I have already blogged about my talk, but the slides are here if you missed it.
Kevin Leander spoke about his study of girls in a girls school that had wireless technology. Essentially he critiqued the institutional use of technology and the low expectations of teachers when the students were able to work at a very sophisticated level.
Michele Knobel spoke about memes and ‘big L’ ‘little l’ L/literacies. It was a really fun talk too, but also stimulating as she spoke about counter-meming as a social critical literacy practice - and I liked the links to the work of Adbusters.com and the strategies for counter-meming outlined at memecentral.com/antidote.htm, and allyourbrand.org/why.htm - I need to look into these more at some time!
Our discussant was Cynthia Lewis:
Cynthia made some lovely remarks and raised questions about “what counts” as literacy as far as schooling is concerned. I thought Cynthis was very insightful!
Then we had Don Leu’s Presidential address:
New Literacies, Reading Research, and the Challenges of Change: a Deictic Perspective of our Research Worlds
I found Don Leu’s talk interesting but targetted to a) an audience who needed to be convinced about new literacies; and b) the American audience. So basically he said “new literacies are here to stay and we need to attend to them” and “Americans aren’t getting into new literacies as much as they should”. I thought he was very sweet and humble in acknowledging all of his colleagues and doctoral students in influencing his understandings about new literacies.
Wednesday evening was Julia’s birthday party as I already mentioned in my very quick post, and here is the birthday girl herself, looking gorgeous and glam:
Isn’t her necklace amazing!? Here’s a close-up:
and here’s some of her DIVINE birthday dessert:
I sat between Julia and Jennifer:
and across from the very animated Guy:
Also at the table were:
and several other people whose names I have embarrassingly forgotten (profuse apologies if you are one of them)!
Are we only up to Thursday!? On Thursday Julia and I snuck out at lunch time for a little shopping expedition, which she blogged about here.
Question: what is Julia doing here???
(Click here to find out!)
I also noticed Julia taking a photo of somebody taking a photo of somebody else so I thought I should take a photo of that and continue the chain:
Oh! And we also came across a guy that wrote our names on a single grain of rice! Now I didn’t really want one but purely because I’d seen one of the characters doing it from the digital fiction called The Strand, which I blogged about recently, I thought I had to have one! I think there is something to say there about feeling some sort of identification with a narrative or fictional character that you associate with it through its artefacts, but I am not sure what yet!
One of my favourite sessions was the afternoon session that followed our shopping expedition!
Social Constructions in New Literacy Environments
Chair(s) & Discussant(s): Charles K. Kinzer, Teachers College, Columbia University
With the rise of the concept of “new literacies,” literacy is increasingly acknowledged as including participation in broadly defined communities of practice. Concurrently, literacy has become influenced by new technologies, which incorporate their own social practices. The symposium examines the social literacies surrounding one of these electronic environments: video games.
1. Digital Literacies and Massively Multiplayer Online Games
Constance A. Steinkuehler, University of Wisconsin-Madison
2. Agency and Authority: Social Practices in Interactive Storytelling
Jessica Hammer, Teachers College, Columbia University
3. Playing the Digital Divide: Video-game-related literacy practices and SES
Gillian Andrews, Teachers College, Columbia University
Constance talked about her study of World of Warcraft. I enjoyed seeing the range of literacy practices involved and I liked the analysis of gaming practices as scientific habits of mind. I hadn’t actually heard the term “persistent virtual worlds” before to describe MMORPGs either, so that was interesting.
Jessica talked about agency in role-playing games. I thought Jessica’s talk was wonderfully theorised and enjoyed being taken in a different direction as far as role-playing and narrative construction is concerned. I think she focussed more on adult role-playing and more sophisticated narrative constructions, as the stuff I am looking at is much less pre-planned, so it’s given me lots of ideas! I liked the points she made about interactivity as giving the illusion of free will. It reminded me of when I was a teacher and used to trick kids into doing what I wanted by offering them choices and making the ideal choice so attractive that they had to select it!! (Ummm… I still do that with my undergrad students, but that is another story!)
Gillian (Gus) spoke about the types of games selected by different types of readers - she made some really useful links to Gee’s work and talked about self-as-avatar, which I would have loved to hear more about! (Who made these sessions limited to 20 minutes? Never enough time to take in everything!!)
I also went to Brian Street’s session:
Literacy Across Cultural Contexts: Implications for Pedagogy and Curriculum
Brian covered a lot of ground in this session (too much to remember!) but something he spoke about that was totally new to me was lowrider art as a literacy practice. He showed how this doodle-like art by young non-English speakers was used as a communicative literacy practice, and I’d like to find out more about this.
Thursday evening I collapsed in my room with exhaustion and tried to write some discussant comments for a session I was involved with the next day. It was very unfortunate for me as I missed out on a fun evening with Julia, Guy, Michele, Sarah, Dana, Rebecca and a heap of others *sniffle*.
So Friday morning was the session by Marion Fey:
Gender Issues in Post-Typographical Texts and Talk: Past, Present and Future
Chair: Barbara Guzzetti
Discussants: Donna Alvermann, Suzanne Wade and Angela Thomas
Marion traced her extensive research into issues about gender and technology. Suzanne made some wonderful theoretical links between her work and Marions, and mentioned Susan Herring’s work. I also mentioned Susan Herring, Lois Scheidt, and colleagues in my response. I talked about: debates about language and gender, performativity of gender in online spaces and collaboration and social software.
Next was another FABULOUS session by the team from Teacher’s College:
Conceptions of Narrative in Non-Traditional Environments
New environments are redefining literacy and literacy practices. However, while non-traditional environments incorporate visual elements in traditional print materials, they still may be categorised as either narrative or expository. This symposium looks at various non-traditional environments to explore the question of narrative construction and definition.
1. Considering Narrative in New Environments
Charles K Kinzer
2. Examining Narrative as Sequential “Sense” in Comics
3. Narrative Strategies in Improvisational Storytelling
Charles Kinzer spoke about Second Life - like most of the sessions I saw, I was left wanting more and with more questions than answers.
Jonathon spoke a lot about the role of transitions or break points in the narratives of comics (great stuff!),
and Jessica spoke about issues of narration, improvisation and collaboration in role-playing in general, as well as issues of continuity, consistency and coherence in narrative in particular.
Again, this team of researchers are really doing wonderful and innovative studies - I would loooove to work with them!!!
In fact, on Saturday morning I had a lovely meeting with Charles (Chuck) Kinzer:
and we talked about the possibility of some fun projects we can collaborate on!!
There were other lunches and dinners and coffees and drinks and the “New Literacies Bash” - in fact some of the most interesting and stimulating discussions were those that took place outside of the conference! I had a lovely talk with Guy over dinner on my last evening and we wondered “Are we like our blogs?” - which led to all sorts of fascinating thoughts about literacy, identity, narrative, projection, virtuality/reality and so on!
And, on my final day I had a minor crisis which I won’t go into here but I want to say a huge THANK YOU to Katina Zammit (my fellow Australian traveller) for being such an angel and rescuing me from a difficult situation!!
So, that was my overview of NRC - an interesting conference made fabulous because of the wonderful company - especially Julia, Guy and Michele!