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Digital Literacy and Digital Literacies: Policy, Pedagogy and Research Considerations for Education

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Abstract

«Digital literacy» is increasingly being identified as a formal educational goal. While mainstream definitions vary in detail, the scope and meaning of digital literacy are rarely seen as problematic. This paper argues that typical mainstream accounts of digital literacy are seriously flawed. Rather than conceiving digital literacy as some unitary phenomenon it is better to think in terms of diverse digital literacies. The paper concludes by identifying some implications of this argument for educational policy, pedagogy and research.
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Digital Literacy and
Digital Literacies:
Policy, Pedagogy and Research Considerations for Education
Colin Lankshear
Adjunct Professor, James Cook University, Australia
c.lankshear@yahoo.com
Michele Knobel
Professor, Montclair State University, USA
knobelm@mail.montclair.edu
SAMMENDRAG
«Digital literacy» er i stadig større grad uttrykt som et utdanningspolitisk mål.
Populære definisjoner varierer i innhold, men målsettingen for begrepet er
sjelden problematisert. Denne artikkelen diskuterer «digital literacy» ut fra en
forståelse om at begrepet ikke er lukket, entydig og selvforklarende. Snarere
enn å forstå «digital literacy» som et enhetlig fenomen, er det bedre å tenke seg
et spekter av «digital literacies». Artikkelen konkluderer med å synliggjøre
dette argumentets mulige implikasjoner for utdanningspolitikk, pedagogikk og
forskning.
ABSTRACT
«Digital literacy» is increasingly being identified as a formal educational goal.
While mainstream definitions vary in detail, the scope and meaning of digital
literacy are rarely seen as problematic. This paper argues that typical
mainstream accounts of digital literacy are seriously flawed. Rather than
conceiving digital literacy as some unitary phenomenon it is better to think in
terms of diverse digital literacies. The paper concludes by identifying some
implications of this argument for educational policy, pedagogy and research.
Key words
digital literacy, literacies, sociocultural, social practice, blogs, fanfic
DEFINING DIGITAL LITERACY
Definitions of digital literacy are of two main kinds: conceptual definitions and
standardized sets of operations intended to provide national and international
normalizations of digital literacy. We will briefly survey examples of both
kinds.
PEER REVIEWED ARTICLE
Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy,
2006–2016, p. 8–20
ISSN online: 1891-943X
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(a) Typical conceptual definitions of «digital literacy»
Richard Lanham (1995: 198) claims that «literacy» has extended its semantic
reach from meaning «the ability to read and write» to now meaning «the ability
to understand information however presented.» He emphasizes the multimedi-
ated nature of digital information, and argues that to be digitally literate
involves «being skilled at deciphering complex images and sounds as well as
the syntactical subtleties of words» (Lanham 1995: 200). Digitally literate
people are «quick on [their] feet in moving from one kind of medium to
another … know what kinds of expression fit what kinds of knowledge and
become skilled at presenting [their] information in the medium that [their]
audience will find easiest to understand» (ibid.). Digital literacy enables us to
match the medium we use to the kind of information we are presenting and to
the audience we are presenting it to.
Paul Gilster defines digital literacy as «the ability to understand and use infor-
mation in multiple formats from a wide variety of sources when it is presented
via computers» and, particularly, through the medium of the Internet (Gilster,
in Pool 1997: 6). He emphasizes what he sees as inherent differences between
digital information media and conventional print media. Digital literacy
involves «adapting our skills to an evocative new medium, [and] our experi-
ence of the Internet will be determined by how we master its core competen-
cies» (ibid.). These competencies are not merely «operational» or «technical»
competencies, however. Digital literacy involves «mastering ideas, not key-
strokes» (ibid.). Gilster identifies four key digital literacy competencies:
knowledge assembly, evaluating information content, searching the Internet,
and navigating hypertext. He describes each at length in his book, Digital
Literacy (Gilster 1997). Gilster claims we need to teach and learn «how to use
the Web properly and how to be critical» and that «we all need to learn that
skill» (Gilster, in Pool 1997: 8). Citing the familiar image of students using the
Internet to find information that they simply cut and paste into a «cobbled-
together collection of quotes or multimedia items,» Gilster argues that we need
to teach students «how to assimilate the information, evaluate it, and then
reintegrate it» (in Pool 1997: 9).
(b) Some typical «standardized operationalizations» of digital literacy
«Standardized operationalizations» refer to attempts to operationalize what is
involved in being «digitally literate» in terms of certain tasks, performances,
demonstrations of skills, etc., and to render these as a standard set for general
adoption. Some are little more than codifications of sets of specific operations
at the level Gilster refers to as «keystrokes.» Others are closer to Gilster’s idea
of «concern with meanings.»
Toward the «keystroke» end of the spectrum is the approach of the Global
Digital Literacy Council (GDLC). One of the Council’s core objectives is to
«review and update the Digital Literacy Standards based on input from subject
matter experts worldwide.» (gdlcouncil.org) Current GDLC standards are
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reflected in the Internet and Computing Core Certification (IC³) program pro-
vided by Certiport (certiport.com). This covers Computing Fundamentals, Key
Applications, and Living Online. The Computing Fundamentals test items
involve tasks like asking learners to click on all the «output devices» from a
list containing items like joystick, monitor, speakers, keyboard, etc.; to choose
among four items (one thousand, one million, one billion, one trillion) for the
number of bytes in a megabyte; to create a new folder on the C drive within a
simulated file manager; and to match «operating system,» «application» and
«utility program» to three provided definitions. The items testing Key Appli-
cations use a range of simulations and ask learners to insert content from the
clipboard at the designated insertion point, and exit Word without using the
close box. Items assessing knowledge and skills related to Living Online use
simulations to have respondents enter a subject in an email message and send
the message, go to a specified address on a web page, and locate the history of
sites visited in a web browser.
Toward the «concern with meaning» end of a spectrum is an operationalization
developed by the US Educational Testing Service for higher education envi-
ronments. According to the ETS, digital literacy is «the ability to use digital
technology, communication tools and/or networks appropriately to solve infor-
mation problems in order to function in an information society,» (ets.org) and
comprises
the ability to use technology as a tool to research, organize, evaluate, and
communicate information, and the possession of a fundamental under-
standing of the ethical/legal issues surrounding the access and use of infor-
mation. (ibid.)
The ETS operationalization comprises 12–15 real time tasks that are «scenario-
based» (for examples of tasks see <ets.org/Media/Tests/ICT_Literacy/pdf/
ict_literacy_task_matrix.pdf>). Tasks include subject matter from the areas of
humanities, natural science, social studies, popular culture and practical
affairs, and use a generic version of one or more of 12 named ICT tools (e.g.,
a word processor, presentation software, a web browser, an email client). Test
takers perform a range of «information management tasks,» including
«extracting information from a database, developing a spreadsheet, or com-
posing an e-mail based on research findings.» The seven competencies are:
Define, Access, Manage, Integrate, Evaluate, Create and Communicate.
KEY FEATURES OF MAINSTREAM DEFINITIONS
OF DIGITAL LITERACY
There are many other conceptual definitions and standardized operationaliza-
tions of digital literacy than those sketched here. Our examples are typical,
however, and they exemplify what we think are three key features of main-
stream accounts of digital literacy.
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First, they confine «digital literacy» to roles concerned with information. This
tendency is well illustrated by the ETS operationalization, where potentially
expansive competencies like «Create» and «Communicate» are described
purely in terms of information.
Create: The ability to generate information by adapting, applying, design-
ing or inventing information in ICT environments.
Communicate: The ability to communicate information properly in its con-
text of use for ICT environments. This includes the ability to gear elec-
tronic information for a particular audience and to communicate knowl-
edge in the appropriate venue. (ets.org/Media/ests/ICT_Literacy/pdf/
ict_literacy_task_matrix.pdf)
Second, typical definitions of digital literacy conflate interaction with informa-
tion with epistemic engagement with information. Digital literacy involves
interacting with information, and interacting with information is about assess-
ing its truth (or validity), credibility, reliability and so on. Digital literacy is
constructed in what we might call «truthcentric» ways, and as some kind of
defence against being manipulated, improperly persuaded, or duped. It is
invested with values and orientations associated with liberal and «critical»
conceptions of media awareness and the like.
Third, most definitions construct digital literacy as an «It» – as some kind of a
«thing:» a capacity or ability, a skill (or set of skills), or «master competency»
(composed of more specific competencies and dispositions). It is something
you «have,» or lack, and anyone who lacks it «needs» to get it. Accounts differ
about what is actually «in» this thing. Some accounts include respect for prop-
erty rights as a necessary facet. Others do not. Some accounts insist on «Inter-
net safety» while others are satisfied with the ability to discriminate credibility
of (re)sources. Such differences aside, the assumption is that when people have
this «thing» they can handle information effectively and use it to consume and
produce information in all kinds of settings and roles – as private citizens,
workers, parents, teachers, learners.
As has been claimed for conventional literacy, digital literacy is seen to have
causal efficacy, to generate outcomes in the world. For example, a digitally lit-
erate population will function better in a knowledge economy and be better
equipped to promote their best interests and those of others who depend upon
them. When one «has» digital literacy good things can happen; when one lacks
digital literacy one is vulnerable and undesirable things can happen.
CRITIQUE OF «DIGITAL LITERACY»
There are three strong grounds for rejecting mainstream approaches to concep-
tualizing and defining digital literacy.
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First, outside of a purely technical definition of information (as «anything
transmitted in a signal that is not noise»), text-mediated interactions like com-
municating and relating cannot be reduced to transmitting and receiving infor-
mation. To define digital literacy purely or predominantly in terms of interact-
ing with information distorts social practice and human intent (cf., Schrage
2001).
Second, we dispute a truthcentric stance toward information in the digisphere,
and the way the ideals of «credibility» and «validity» are rendered in terms of
conventional norms of epistemic authority that we associate with academic
veracity. We are not saying these are not important. Rather, we are saying that
defining digital literacy in such delimiting ways by fiat needs to be seen for
what it is: namely, an artificial and arbitrary constriction, with deep modernist
trappings. Much of what many people are doing with information on the Inter-
net does not bespeak concerns for truth or about being manipulated or duped.
Instead, information increasingly becomes a resource for participation in affin-
ity practices where concerns about «truth» and manipulation risks are replaced
by concerns for social relations and participation. For example, a blogger cited
by Dana Cammack (2005) invited her readers to post «memories» of time
spent with her that were complete fabrications. The resulting list of invented
memories was clearly much more about signaling current friendships and alli-
ances than about «truth» or «reality
Third, conceiving digital literacy as some kind of «thing» – an «It» – is mis-
guided, and open to the critique sociocultural theorists have advanced against
the prevailing tendency to conceive conventional (alphabetic/print) literacy as
an autonomous entity. According to what sociocultural theorists call the
«autonomous» model of literacy (Street 1984), literacy consists in a skill, tool,
technique, or set of (mainly cognitive) competencies that can be applied in
diverse contexts and put of a range of uses and applications. Western alpha-
betic literacy is seen to comprise mastery of letters and phonemes such that one
can encode and decode print. Armed with this «capacity,» people apply a
«neutral» technology in different ways and for different purposes. Within this
model «literacy» refers to abstracted «skills» or «techniques» – mastery of the
technology of alphabetic text/print – and learners are taught to encode and
decode as preparation for reading and writing in diverse settings.
This autonomous model resonates with the different accounts of digital liter-
acy described above. «Digital literacy» consists in so many lists of abstracted
skills and techniques that a proficient person can «do.» Once they «have» these
«skills» they can use them purposefully at work, at home, at school, etc., and
function «competently.» Courses are created to teach learners these tools/tech-
niques/skills, and certify them when they are finished. (This logic is almost the
exact reverse of what young people do when they set about learning how to
play an online game and become part of an online gaming community.)
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Sociocultural critique of the autonomous model of literacy does not deny that
social practices of reading and writing involve elements of skill and technique.
Clearly, they do. The point is, however, that these «skills» and «techniques»
take on very different forms when embedded in different social practices
involving different purposes and where different kinds of meaning are at stake.
Moreover, the skills and techniques of decoding and encoding do not help very
much on their own with explicating «reading» and «writing». This is because
reading and writing are always «reading and writing with meaning» and this
meaning is not primarily, or even substantially, a function of some «skill» or
«technique» that might be called «comprehension.» It is predominantly a func-
tion of social practice, social context, and Discourse (Gee 2004).
From a sociocultural perspective, there is not just literacy. Rather, there are
very many qualitatively different social practices of reading and writing, and
many different conceptions of what is involved in reading and writing. There
are very many cultural ways in which people read and write. Individuals move
in and out of multiple ways of reading and writing. In other words, there are
very many literacies. This is what Brian Street (1984: 1) means when he says
that the word «literacy» should be understood as «a shorthand for the social
practices and conceptions of reading and writing.» Writing a doctoral thesis is
a radically different practice from writing a shopping list. The element they
seem to have in common – encoding text – is the least important consideration.
To think of these practices as different manifestations of some «thing» called
literacy is like thinking of building a bridge and building a warehouse as dif-
ferent manifestations of mixing cement.
The same applies to «Internet searching.» To think of online searching to do a
scholarly literature review and searching online for a recipe to mix a margarita
as different manifestations of keying words into a search engine is to miss
almost all of what is important to different social practices of online searching.
This argument has crucial implications for «digital literacy.» It means we
should think of «digital literacy» not as something unitary, and certainly not as
some finite «competency» or «skill» – or even as a set of competencies or
skills. Rather, it means we should think of «digital literacy» as shorthand for
the myriad social practices and conceptions of engaging in meaning making
mediated by texts that are produced, received, distributed, exchanged etc., via
digital codification. Digital literacy is really digital literacies. Indeed, each of
the «things» that is named from an «It» perspective as a discrete «skill» splin-
ters into multiple social practices. There are many different social practices
and conceptions of searching, of navigating links, of evaluating credibility of
sources, of «posting,» and so on. These vary according to how people «iden-
tify» themselves: that is, according to the values they have, the social groups
they relate to, the affinities they invest in and attach themselves to, the pur-
poses they see themselves pursuing, the kinds of images they seek to project,
and so on.
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DIGITAL LITERACIES IN EVERYDAY LIFE
In this section we illustrate our argument by brief reference to weblogging and
fan fiction writing. It will soon become apparent that even digital literacies
falling under one name, like «blogging» or «fanfiction,» are profoundly mul-
tiple. The names do not each refer to a unitary digital literacy. The social prac-
tices of any two bloggers may seem as different from each other as writing an
academic paper is from emailing a parent, spouse or sibling.
(a) Weblogs/blogging
A weblog – or «blog» – is «a website that is up-dated frequently, with new
material posted at the top of the page» (Blood 2002: 12). Blogs began in the
early 1990s as websites that listed annotated hyperlinks to other websites con-
taining interesting, curious, hilarious or otherwise noteworthy content recom-
mended by the publisher of the weblog. Early blog publishers – «bloggers» –
tended to be computing «insiders» because some knowledge of webpage and
hyperlink coding was needed to post material to the Internet. Since 1999, how-
ever, easily-used weblog publishing tools and readily available web hosting
have spawned a new mass generation of bloggers that is much more diverse
than the original blogging generation. On 7 October, 2005, the weblog search
engine Technorati.com claimed to be searching 19 million weblogs world-
wide. Many bloggers use weblogs as a medium more like regularly updated
journals than indices of hyperlinks, and postings can document anything and
everything from what the blogger had for lunch that day; movie and music
reviews; descriptions of shopping trips; through to latest illustrations com-
pleted by the blogger for offline texts; and the like. Posts may combine photo-
graphs and other graphics along with text, hypertext and audio. Weblogs are
largely interest-driven and many weblogging practices are primarily con-
cerned with creating social alliances (Blood 2002). Some bloggers update
several times a day, while others may update every few days, once a week, or
even less regularly.
Blogs are created and maintained for diverse purposes and as part of diverse
social practices. These include, but are far from exhausted by (combinations
of) the following: as personal diaries/journals; to provide alternative accounts
of events and other phenomena to those of mainstream media as part of a citi-
zen journalist practice; to critique mainstream broadcasting of news events as
part of a «news watch» affinity space; to sell products or distribute corporate
news as part of commercial practice; to express personal opinions as part of
one’s alliance with particular points-of-view or perspectives; to archive mem-
ories (e.g., photo blogs, audio blogs, video blogs); to parody other blogs and
other media; to augment fanfiction writing or drawing; to archive or index pro-
fession-related materials (e.g., hyperlinks to relevant policy documents and
news reports etc.); to augment hobbies and pastimes (e.g., collecting items,
techno-gadgetry, genealogy studies, sport); to notify fans of popular culture
events and information (like band tour dates, author readings and book events,
art and design world developments), and so on. The sheer diversity of weblogs
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and weblogging practices cautions against conceiving blogging as a specific
singular digital literacy.
(b) Fanfiction
In fanfiction – or «fanfic» to aficionados – devotees of a television show,
movie, book, video game etc. write stories (or songs, poems, or create draw-
ings) about its characters. In the main, fanfictions chronicle alternate adven-
tures, mishaps or even alternate histories/futures for main characters, relocate
main characters to a new universe altogether, fill in plot holes, or realize rela-
tionships between characters that were only hinted at, if that, on screen, and so
on. Fanfiction writing practices have really come into their own as distinct,
recognized social practices since the advent of serialized television shows like
«Star Trek.» This began in 1966 and rapidly gained a cult following of fan
fiction writers who distributed their narratives at Star Trek fan conventions, fan
club meetings, or via postal mail. Since then, fans of any number of popular
media texts have generated countless volumes of fanfic writing in a range of
forms and media.
The Internet has played a prominent role in the proliferation of fanfic writing
and has enabled more people than ever before to actively participate in contrib-
uting and critiquing fanfic. A Google.com search in October 2005 for the term
«fan fiction» returned 3,700,000 hits, which can be read as a barometer of the
popularity of this practice online. Fanfic itself can be classified into a number
of different types. These include, for example, «in-canon» writing, which
maintains as much of the original media text as possible; «crossovers,» where
characters from two different media texts (e.g., from a video game and a
movie) are brought together in a new story; «(relation)shipper» narratives, that
focus on establishing or exploring an intimate relationship between two char-
acters (this includes heterosexual and homoerotic or homosexual relation-
ships); «alternative universe» stories, where the characters from an original
text are transposed into an entirely new or different «world»; and «self insert»
fanfic, where the writer inserts herself as a recognizable character into the
narrative.
Most fanfic writers value good quality writing, which for them includes well-
developed characters, engaging and logical plotlines, and good grammar and
spelling. For example, many fan-produced online guides to writing good fanfic
stories warn writers of falling victim to the «Mary Sue» syndrome. «Mary
Sue» (along with her male counterpart) is a character who embodies the
author’s all-too-charming-and-perfect alter ego, and as such, tends to dominate
the entire story and squeeze the lifeblood out of it.
Online fanfic writing groups come in a variety of forms, but perhaps the most
common is the searchable archive-plus-discussion board format typified by
Fanfiction.net. Fanfiction.net hosts tens of thousands of fanfics, which are
organized into 8 categories (i.e., Anime, Book, Movie, Cartoon, Comic, Game,
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Television Show, and Miscellaneous). At the start of October, 2005, for exam-
ple, clicking on the sub-category entry for Inuyasha – a popular anime tele-
vision series – takes the reader to a listing of 51,788 fanfic narratives based on
this series. Clicking on any one of these listed narrative opens a fan-produced
text, with many of these texts running into multiple chapters. Once a particular
story has been accessed it is possible to read all of the reviews posted for this
story. The stories themselves can become serialized, with chapters written over
the course of a number of years and each new chapter or installment often
responds to reviewer feedback and suggestions for future storyline or character
developments. In this way, fanfiction writing online is often a highly collabo-
rative act.
Collaborative writing seems to be especially prized among adolescent female
writers in particular, who often draft or rehearse written stories via role-plays
and plot discussions conducted using instant messaging or blogs (cf., Black
2006; Thomas 2005). Fans writing fiction based on a favourite movie, book,
television series, or video game are not only prolonging the pleasure they
obtain from these original media texts, but also actively writing themselves
into the picture by appropriating characters, motivations, and settings, and
shaping these within personally interesting and satisfying narratives. In short,
fanfic is more than simply «writing stories.» The kind of collaborative appro-
priations found in fanfic practices clearly challenge the commercial media’s
hold over everyday textual narratives (Jenkins 1992).
WHAT IS CENTRAL TO «DIGITAL LITERACY» IS MARGINAL
IN DIGITAL LITERACIES
One major implication of focusing on digital literacies as social practices of
reading and writing (keying, imaging, etc.) is that «the digits» – in the sense of
knowing how to «operate» bits of hardware and software – are in most cases
the least part of what the social practices involve. Most of what participants
bring to digital literacy practices are cultural and critical «ways of doing
things» rather than «operational» techniques (Lankshear & Snyder 2001).
If we look, for example, to award winning weblogs like Ernie Hsiung’s little.
yellow.different or BoingBoing.com it is obvious that most of what constitutes
these blogs and their success are the cultural/aesthetic/literary «ways» and
«experiences» their creators bring to the blogosphere. Someone like an Ernie
Hsiung could very quickly and easily acquire – or hire – the operational facility
needed to publish their point of view, «take» on life, humour and style in
weblog format. The value lies in the point of view and style almost infinitely
more than in the operational aspect.
Such ideas are well understood by young people who are digitally literate in
the social practice sense we advocate here. Two examples from online inter-
views with adolescent «insiders» to online role-playing communities (Thomas
2005) affirm our point.
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In the first, a 14 year old male informant speaking in role as Percirion (Presi-
dent of the United Federation of the Planets) provides insights into his experi-
ences of digital literacy instruction from an «It» perspective, while a second
young informant (Hobbitness) «looks» on:
President Percirion (UFP): My school is most certainly teaching us about
Technology …
We have a «Computer lab» with enough electricity flowing through it to
power a small African country
Anya [researcher]: so what computer skills / knowledge are you getting at
your school perc?
President Percirion (UFP): Typing ... I’m a 42-words-per-min typer
President Percirion (UFP): How to Use the Internet … How Not To Use the
Internet
Hobbitness: lol
Anya: but you already know ... laugh really? they’re giving you rules?
President Percirion (UFP): We usually ... have free reign on the Internet
President Percirion (UFP): But there’s a boundary
Anya:†††††††††††† yes?
President Percirion (UFP): This is where the powerful Imagination kicks in
Anya: tell tell
President Percirion (UFP): «Inappropriate material», so to speak
President Percirion (UFP): And we’re also learning how to use various
computer systems … which I am sure will be out of date by the time we
leave
Anya: what various computer systems?
President Percirion (UFP): Excel, Word, More Excel, Office
Hobbitness: aha
President Percirion (UFP): Powerpoint
Hobbitness: *haha
Anya: ahhh ok
(Data provided as personal communication by Angela Thomas, March
2005)
Percirion and Hobbitness participate in an online role-playing community, the
Gathering of the Elves. It was created by a young girl named Elianna, who spoke
at length about the purposes, motivations and processes involved in instigating
the community and administering the site (sindalindewen.proboards30.com). In
this second example, Elianna affirms our view about «the digits» being the least
part of digital literacies.
When I expressed admiration for her achievement, [Elianna] humbly
deflected my praise to the team of friends who assisted her in administering
the site. She identified each friend, telling me their particular area of exper-
tise, and what they had contributed to the site. She claimed she just thought
of the idea to create the community and it was easy because her friends
DIGITAL LITERACY AND DIGITAL LITERACIES: | COLIN LANKSHEAR AND MICHELE KNOBEL
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distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 License (http://
creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/
helped her to develop it. She didn’t see anything remarkable at all in what
she was doing, labelling it as «just a game», «a bit of fun». When I pointed
out all of the processes she had worked through to set up the community,
she dismissed it, saying «… nah, it's easy ... you just mess around for a bit
and you get it ... You just have to figure out which «button» works which
part lol … and yeah, just about ... most of it you have to change back and
forth, and it's like, ok, so this one changes this and that one changes that,
and you just kept messing with it til you work it out» (Thomas 2005: 29).
SOME POLICY, PEDAGOGY AND RESEARCH CONSIDERATIONS
Our arguments suggest a range of considerations for people working in the pol-
icy, pedagogy and research areas of education. Some of these are as follows.
Policy
(i) Digital literacy should be problematized rather than taken as understood.
Rather than operating from unproblematic conceptions of digital literacy as an
«It,» we should view digital literacies in a larger frame that resists over-attend-
ing to operational techniques and skills and, instead, emphasizes mobilizing
and building on what learners acquire and know from their wider cultural par-
ticipation and affinities. Much evidence from literacy research indicates that
constructions of literacy in terms of skills, content, and competencies predi-
cated on functioning within everyday economic, administrative, and social
routines can be profoundly disabling for those deemed not to be literate.
(ii) Policy makers should resist the temptation to make curriculum the default
setting for providing access to digital literacy. Subsidized public and home-
based access to digital technologies offering opportunities for wide-ranging
exploration and experimentation, as well as access to «insider» expertise and
support, are likely to be more effective in both the short and the long run.
(iii) It is important to recognize a much wider range of digital literacies that
just those that are tied to information. It is also important to consider digitized
popular cultural artifacts and pursuits – mobile phones, MP3 players, handheld
games – as fruitful conduits to familiarity and proficiency with a broad range
of digital literacies that are valued scholastically, culturally and economically
(Facer & Furlong 2001).
Pedagogy
It is important to consider the extent to which the «digits» – the operational
aspects – are the least part of what is involved in most digital literacies. While
the role and complexity of the operational dimension will vary from one digital
literacy to another we need always to consider potential costs involved in hos-
taging social contexts and practices to «skill teaching,» when it would be far
19
NORDIC JOURNAL OF DIGITAL LITERACY | 2006–2016
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distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 License (http://
creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/
more effective to allow operational facility to emerge organically from immer-
sion in uncompromised versions of social practices.
For school-based learning to provide a sound entrée to becoming digitally lit-
erature in insider or expert-like ways we recommend pedagogical approaches
like that of the Knowledge Producing Schools initiative being developed on a
project by project basis with schools by Chris Bigum, Leonie Rowen and asso-
ciates (deakin.edu.au/education/lit/kps. See also, Lankshear & Knobel 2003).
Research
(i) In a period of deep and rapid change and innovation researchers need to
seek productive balance between theory-driven and more «grounded»
approaches to researching digital literacies. As new practices emerge it will not
always be appropriate to try and understand them in terms of extant theory –
indeed, often it will not be appropriate to do so. The trick is to know when to
give new theory a chance to emerge from data. It is also important for research-
ers of digital literacies to «get out as often as possible» and investigate cultural
fringes as matters of interest in their own right, and not with a view to seeking
direct educational applications.
(ii) Current developments on the Internet reflected in talk about a transition
from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0 mark changes in the constitution of social practices
that call out to be researched carefully with an eye to understanding their impli-
cations for learning and expertise. We think that much of what is addressed in
the name of digital literacy from the «It» perspective is grounded in Web 1.0.
Yet, outside of formal «curricularized» learning contexts – in such spaces as
online fanfic communities, the blogosphere, participation in Wikipedia, the
open source movement, online gaming communities, and the like – people are
absorbing and embracing the cultural logic of Web 2.0. The experience of dis-
juncture on the part of learners who invest informally in «Web 2.0» when faced
with «Web 1.0» within formal settings of compulsory learning is debilitating,
confusing and, ultimately, destructive. Research has much to contribute to
resolving such tensions within pedagogical sites.
CONCLUSION
Digital literacies present significant challenges to policy, pedagogy, and
research in relation to education. In our view, facing and meeting these chal-
lenges begins from ensuring that digital literacy does not become the post-
typographic equivalent of functional literacy from the world of print. Accord-
ingly, we think it is important to consider supporting research that tells us more
about «how kids who grow up digital think and want to learn,» and the extent
to which and ways in which current educational directions and emphases may
negate such ways of thinking and desires for learning.
DIGITAL LITERACY AND DIGITAL LITERACIES: | COLIN LANKSHEAR AND MICHELE KNOBEL
20
This article is downloaded from www.idunn.no. © 2015 Author(s). This is an Open Access article
distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0 License (http://
creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/
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Just don't call them cartoons: The new literacy spaces of anime, manga, and fan fiction
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