Digital Literacies

Doctoral colloquium on digital literacies (University of Nicosia, Cyprus)

I’m back from the internship working with CARDET in Cyprus. And whilst doing bits and pieces for them, I also managed to enjoy some parts of the magnificent island. One of the things I did whilst there was a session on Digital Literacies, see Prezi below:

Also available here:

The session looked at two readings, and used them explore some current trends in digital literacy theory, and to talk about some future directions. The readings were:
Chapter 2, Lankshear & Knobel (2011) New Literacies Everyday Practices and Social Learning, New York: Open University Press.

Gee, JP (2012) The Old and the New in the New Digital Literacies, The Educational Forum, 76(4)

Among the things we talked about were the constructs of ‘events’ and ‘practices’ as employed in the field of ‘Literacy Studies’, what these mean, and how they are operationalised in research especially research into digital literacies.

According to Street (1993) “ ‘literacy practices’ incorporate not only ‘literacy events’, as empirical occasions to which literacy is integral, but also ‘folk models’ of those events and the ideological preconceptions that underpin them” (pp. 12-13). Barton et al (2000) echo this view by defining literacy as “best understood as a set of practices; these are observable in events which are mediated by written texts”.

Events remain observable, but practices have empirical and abstract components, with the latter usually obtainable – or inferable – from rich ethnographic accounts of the who, what, why, and how of literacy. This does, of course, depend on where one goes to get the notion of ‘practice’ from. Practice as “a combination of action and reflection” (Baynham and Prinsloo, 2009: p.5) owes its origins, via the work of Bourdieu, to Karl Marx’s these on Feuerbach:

“The principal defect of all materialism up to now — including that of Feuerbach — is that the external object, reality, the sensible world is grasped only in the form of an object or an intuition; but not as concrete human activity, as practice, in a subjective way. (Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach in epigraph to Bourdieu’s ‘Outline of a Theory of Practice’ (1977:

For Scollon, practice relates to a more empirical type of “mediated action with a history” (Scollon 2001: 66).

What of digital literacy practices, and digital literacy events? What of the scope of ‘events’ and ‘practices’, and their relationship to each other? Their interconnectedness?

In terms of digital literacy events for my research (see Bhatt and de Roock, forthcoming), drawing from Lankshear and Knobel, I see them as observable situations around the creation of digital texts (or in which that text is central) and where meanings are “mediated by texts that are produced, received, distributed, exchanged, etc., via digital codification” (Lankshear and Knobel 2008, 5), and in another part of the same volume “digital enculturation”. In today’s digitally-permeated environments such ‘digital literacy events’ are everywhere, interwoven with ‘digital literacy practices’ which are highlighted often by the rituals and relationships involved; practices and events then are all the way down, like Leibniz’s ponds and fish analogy

Barton, D., Hamilton, M. and Ivanic, R. (2000) Situated literacies: reading and writing in
context. Abingdon, Routledge.

Baynham, M. & Prinsloo, M. (2009). Introduction. In: Baynham, M. &  Prinsloo, M. (Eds.) The future of literacy studies (pp. 1-20). Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Bhatt, I. and de Roock, R. (forthcoming). Capturing the Sociomateriality of Digital Literacy Events, Research in Learning Technology.

Bourdieu, P. (1977). Outline of a theory of practice. (Esquisse d’une théorie de la pratique). Transl. by Richard Nice. (Repr.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Scollon, R. (2001) Mediated Discourse: the Nexus of Practice. London: Routledge

Street, B. (1993). Cross-cultural approaches to literacy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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