ChapterPDF Available

Language, Ideology, and Critical Digital Literacy


Abstract and Figures

Technology has revolutionized the way we produce and exchange information and developed new modes of communication and socialization. Implicated in relations of power, these digitally mediated practices are not ideologically neutral. They shape the representation of meanings and identities, the circulation of knowledge, the construction of social networks and formations, redefining notions of private and public space, while privileging and marginalizing ideas, cultures, and people. As technology increasingly becomes an integral component of learning, this chapter asserts that learners must develop a critical digital literacy to become more aware of how power operates in digital spaces, shaping ways of thinking and doing that are implicated in social and cultural reproduction. By sharpening this critical lens, learners equip themselves with the capacity to examine linguistic and nonlinguistic features of digital media, their biases and assumptions, in order to verify information and access the truth.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Language, Ideology, and Critical Digital
Ron Darvin
Technology has revolutionized the way we produce and exchange information
and developed new modes of communication and socialization. Implicated in
relations of power, these digitally mediated practices are not ideologically neutral.
They shape the representation of meanings and identities, the circulation of
knowledge, the construction of social networks and formations, redening
notions of private and public space, while privileging and marginalizing ideas,
cultures, and people. As technology increasingly becomes an integral component
of learning, this chapter asserts that learners must develop a critical digital
literacy to become more aware of how power operates in digital spaces, shaping
ways of thinking and doing that are implicated in social and cultural reproduction.
By sharpening this critical lens, learners equip themselves with the capacity to
examine linguistic and nonlinguistic features of digital media, their biases and
assumptions, in order to verify information and access the truth.
Critical Literacy Digital Literacy Language Power
Introduction . . ....................................................................................... 2
Early Developments ................................................................................ 3
Major Contributions . . .............................................................................. 4
The Representation of Meaning and Identities ................................................ 5
The Circulation of Knowledge . . . . . . . .......................................................... 6
The Construction of Social Networks and Formations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. .. .. . 7
Issues of Control and Access ................................................................... 7
R. Darvin (*)
Department of Language and Literacy Education, University of British Columbia, Education Centre
at Ponderosa Commons, Vancouver, BC, Canada
#Springer International Publishing AG 2017
S. Thorne, S. May (eds.), Language and Technology, Encyclopedia of Language and
Education, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-02328-1_35-1
Work in Progress .................................................................................. 8
Problems and Difculties ......................................................................... 9
Future Directions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Cross-References . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Related Articles in the Encyclopedia of Language and Education . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
References . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Technology has instigated a fourth revolution in knowledge production (Harnad
1991), and by accelerating the speed through which ideas are processed and shared,
it forties a knowledge economy where the production, distribution, and exchange
of information are vital. As people and ideas traverse transnational spaces with
greater uidity, new means of representation and spaces of socialization also provide
greater opportunities for the construction of identities and networks. These practices
of communicating, relating, thinking and beingassociated with digital media
(Jones and Hafner 2012, p. 13) or digital literacies have not only recongured
epistemological and social landscapes but also transformed identications, alle-
giances, and notions of citizenship. As social practices (Street 2003), these new
literacies are implicated in the power structures of the different contexts where they
are developed, performed, and valued (Heath and Street 2008; Norton and Williams
2012; Prinsloo and Rowsell 2012; Warschauer 2009). To examine how power
operates in these multiple spaces requires a more critical understanding of the
differentiated, situated and enculturated ways in which digital practices happen
(Snyder and Prinsloo 2007, p. 173).
Because of the shared capacity to construct, redesign, and disseminate informa-
tion through the digital, truth becomes more open to interpretation and reinvention.
In an era of post-truth,not only is knowledge acquisition now more contextual and
situational (Luke 2014), but the ideological mechanisms that govern the production
of truth within digital spaces become more invisible. To dissect how power operates
in these processes of digital production, consumption, and socialization, learners
need to develop a critical literacy that will allow them to lter through the abun-
dance of information, to contest, deconstruct, and critique in order to discover
legitimate knowledge (Luke 2003). Recognizing how language and other symbolic
forms can be a powerful means to maintain and reproduce modes of exclusion,
critical literacy also confronts how issues of access, diversity, and design are
implicated in structures of power (Janks 2000), shaping identities, relationships,
and interactions in unequal ways. As a convergence of both digital and critical
literacies, critical digital literacy examines how the operation of power within digital
contexts shapes knowledge, identities, social relations, and formations in ways that
privilege some and marginalize others. It equips learners with the tools to examine
the linguistic and nonlinguistic features of digital media, to identify their embedded
biases and assumptions, in order to access the truth.
2 R. Darvin
To examine more critically how technology facilitates the reconguration of
knowledge and the social order, one needs to be aware of the various perspectives
that surround it. On one end of the spectrum, technological dystopianism asserts that
it diminishes our ability to communicate and interact meaningfully, and is respon-
sible for shorter attention spans, language deterioration, and erosion of privacy.
Technological utopianism, on the other hand, subscribes to the idea that it contrib-
utes only to progress and greater freedom. The limitation of these absolute positions
is that it succumbs to a determinism that views technology as one that ultimately
controls ways of thinking and social practices. Ignoring the power of technology in
transforming societies and regarding it as ideologically neutral, however, would be
an enormous oversight (Jones and Hafner 2012). By asserting that technology
operates through power, critical digital literacy needs to strike a balance between
these views, and proceed from an understanding that while technology has the
capacity to empower and liberate, it also has the capacity to exclude and marginalize
others (Darvin 2016).
Early Developments
When electronic text forms and practices were just beginning to change the com-
munication landscape, Peters and Lankshear (1996) called for a critical literacy that
would respond to the shifting textual environment and challenge enclosuredforms
of consciousness. Highlighting the dematerialized, interactive, integrative, and
manipulable nature of the digital text, these scholars explained how these features
enabled greater intertextuality and hybridity, while posing new possibilities and
challenges for language and literacy education. Recognizing the attendant dangers
of the new digital environment increased state surveillance, vulnerability to
breakdown and sabotage, and risks of cultural imperialism, the paper posited the
need for a critical literacy that continually analyzed and evaluated how the digital
transforms not only textual and discursive practices, but ultimately ways of doing
and being.
In the same year, the New London Group (1996) highlighted how the increasing
variety of text forms linked to information and multimedia technologies had great
implications for teaching literacy. In proposing a pedagogy of multiliteracies, this
group articulated critical framing as an important objective. Through this goal,
learners are able to link situated practice and overt instruction to the historical,
social, cultural, political, ideological, and value-centred relations of particular sys-
tems of knowledge and social practice(p. 34). Recognizing that website content
may manipulate readers and obscure an ideological agenda, Labbo et al. (1998)
pointed out how digital literacy requires being both a critical consumer and producer
of information. They dened critical digital literacy as the ability to recognize,
interpret, and evaluate underlying ideologies in various types of hypertextually
linked information as it is presented in various data sources(p. 282). Primarily
concerned with being able to bridge the digital literacies learned at school with those
required in the workplace, the authors assert that this critical approach is necessary to
Language, Ideology, and Critical Digital Literacy 3
strategically navigate through data, and that teachers need to receive the support
necessary to develop these literacies.
Luke (2003) observed that with new media, meaning making and knowledge are
deterritorialized, and that the uidity and plurality of engagement are marked by
simultaneous decoding, production, and interactional contexts. Making meaning
from hypertexts thus require greater lateral thinking a cognitive mobility across
disciplines, genres, modalities, and cultural zones. Recognizing the risks and poten-
tial of information and communication technologies (ICTs), Luke proposed a critical
ICT literacy that would include a metaknowledge, a critical and self-reective
analysis of the sociocultural and political contexts of ICTs at global and local levels
(p. 399). Beyond skills training and use of collaborative tools, she asserted the need
for critical analyses of power relations, identity politics, and language generated by
and through engaging with technology. Challenging the assumption that online
communication is hierarchy-free, she believed there should be a way to investigate
whether this equity exists, and if students of different cultural or linguistic back-
grounds are able to participate freely in these spaces. Activating this critical ICT
literacy requires a metaknowledge, a self-reective analysis of the sociocultural and
political contexts of technologies at local and global levels. As online literacies
evolve, educational theorizing and research must devise more exible concepts and
methodologies that involve a provisional and transformational epistemology.
In a report on media education in the twenty-rst century, Jenkins (2006)
suggested that new media literacies should be considered a social skill and that to
engage within participatory cultures should involve a capacity to think critically
about information that is shared within these diverse spaces. Learners need to
acquire a critical understanding of how media representations structure our percep-
tions of the world, the economic and cultural contexts within which mass media is
produced and circulated, the motives and goals that shape the media they consume
(p. 31). By developing a critical awareness of how media frames worldviews and
reshapes experience according to its code and conventions, learners are able to
evaluate the quality of information technology has made highly accessible. Drawing
from Girouxs(1994) notion of critical pedagogy, Merchant (2007) identied critical
digital literacy as an important component of literacy education. Developing a
critical lens is a responsibility of the educational system, and this entails providing
learners with tools to analyze discourses related to wider social issues, power
relationships, and inequities. While there is a need to nurture and preserve new
digital spaces, there should also be a means to understand their constructed nature.
As learners participate in these spaces, critical digital literacy enables them to
critique and challenge the dominant discourses circulating within these domains.
Major Contributions
As a construct, critical digital literacy continues to be labeled and interpreted in
different ways and for different ends. Developing a vision for student success in the
new global economy, The Framework for twenty-rst Century Learning (Partnership
4 R. Darvin
for 21st Century Skills 2011) identify information, media, and ICT literacies as
including both functional and critical thinking skills. In this context, developing new
literacies is viewed as necessary to participate as a productive member of the
knowledge economy. Concerned with how technology contributes to the collective
intelligence in a knowledge society, Poore (2011) refers to these two tiers of digital
literacy. Functional digital literacy deals with developing technical skills and chang-
ing mindsets and attitudes towards technology through workshops and training.
Critical digital literacy, on the other hand, examines digital contexts in a more
cultural sense and requires having teachers equipped with philosophical and ethical
frameworks for understanding digital cultures. As teachers guide learners through
the emerging knowledge space, they need to help bridge a digital divide constructed
by differential access to information, relationships, and networks.
Addressing this gap is also important to Facer (2011), who believes critical skills
are key to building strategic knowledge that will contribute to social change. Given
the ubiquity of online information, learners need to develop the capacity to discern
the relationship of information to other information, to goals and interests, and to the
contexts in which it is used. By understanding how the management of information
ows impacts the lives of other people, learners are able to participate in a new
culture of informal learning where technology can transform homes, neighborhoods,
and workplaces into an integrated learning society that benets diverse groups of
Because new technologies provide an immersive, interactive experience,
Wohlwend and Lewis (2011) use critical engagement to describe the critical inter-
pretation and production of digital literacies. As visual and embodied texts and
virtual spaces circulate through global ows, they become both universalizing and
fragmenting. Critical engagement enables an examination of how the motives of
information and communication providers can shape the dissemination of knowl-
edge, how participatory cultures can expand or limit the construction of texts and
social networks, and how power relations are inscribed in the practices and norms of
digital environments. Subscribing to the notion that emotion is structured through
ideology, these scholars posit that the critical interpretation and production of digital
literacies is bound to complex desires, and should therefore examine how digital
practices are tied to expressions of passions, attachments, and afliations.
Because digital media does not just enable the production and consumption of
texts, but facilitates ways of thinking, relating, and interacting with others, critical
digital literacy encompasses these affordances. Research in this area examines how
power and ideology operates in the digital practices of representing identities,
producing and circulating knowledge, constructing social networks and formations,
and managing control and access.
The Representation of Meaning and Identities
At the very heart of critical literacy is the examination of how meanings are
represented in ways that maintain and reproduce relations of power. While the
Language, Ideology, and Critical Digital Literacy 5
deconstruction of texts can reveal subtexts of power, digital technologies provide
means of representation that conceal ideology in new ways. Through wizards,
templates, drop-down menus, and preference settings, a semblance of personaliza-
tion is manufactured to provide the user with a sense of freedom and autonomy.
Although multiple and diverse, these affordances are never objective as they chan-
nel, and potentially limit, the meanings and representations one can make. To t into
the coding logic of these sites, there is always a predened set of alternatives that
prohibit ner gradations of meaning users can control. These default settings and
givenssteer users to a set of normative behaviors and meanings, indoctrinating
users into social practices that are technologized around digital tools (Jones and
Hafner 2012). Because Facebook is in the business of selling data about users to
advertisers, the default categories users are made to ll out on their proles (e.g.,
favorite books, movies, music) also encourage disclosure of personal interests that
serve Facebooks commercial motives. The highlighting of how many friends one
has or the number of likes a post receives becomes a way of quantifying popularity,
encouraging particular ways in which people communicate with each other and
curate their identities. In a study of storytelling styles on Facebook, for instance,
Page (2012) observes the frequent use of an affective discourse style marked by a
high degree of intensication. Capitalization, repeated exclamation marks, repeti-
tion, exaggerated quantiers like all and everyone, and frequent use of boosters, e.g.,
very,really,so are used to report on quotidian events. This linguistic pattern of
intensication demonstrates how users believe some form of exaggeration is needed
to make their stories tellableon social media. In this sense, the range of actions
enabled by digital tools promotes particular constructions of self and language use.
The Circulation of Knowledge
Another way technology can limit the perception of the world is the systematic
ltering of knowledge through algorithms. While people generally regard the Inter-
net as open arenas where free exploration is the norm, online search technologies
choose routes that are determined by programmed algorithms. The algorithmic
assessment of information represents a specic logic built on certain presumptions
of what knowledge is and the categories in which specic information belongs. By
deciding what the categories are and what belongs in each one, this fundamental
component of database design and management becomes a powerful semantic and
political intervention. It makes assertions of the nature of things, while concealing
these evaluative criteria, which are held as trade secrets. The trendingalgorithm of
Twitter, for instance, cannot be made public because this would leave them vulner-
able to those who may want to manipulate the system to get their sites to the top of
the search results or want their hashtags to appear on the trends list (Gillespie 2014).
Because of these conditions, the algorithm becomes a legitimate knowledge logic,
where commercial interests are integrated and protected. Search directory editors
and website designers lobby for specic sites and sponsored links to appear at the top
of search results. Some studies have also noted how structural biases of search
6 R. Darvin
engines can prioritize commercial information providers and English language sites
(Granka 2010). By operating through these biases, public search tools lead to a
hegemonic rationality that privileges certain sources of information, while excluding
others (Kirkpatrick 2008).
The Construction of Social Networks and Formations
By calculating what is trending or popular, social networking sites do not only
control the circulation of knowledge, they also shape social and political discourse
and the publics in which people participate (Gillespie 2014). In a news service, the
information that is pushed is tailored to the users preferences, consequently
undermining the diversity of public knowledge and political dialogue. Because of
these algorithms that direct users towards likeminded people, they enter into lter
bubbleswhere one nds the news one expects and political perspectives one
already subscribes to (Pariser 2011). This lter exists in Facebook News Feeds as
well where results are based on algorithmic calculations that push status updates and
activities of friends whom one already interacts with the most by liking and
commenting on their posts. By ranking objectslike an uploaded photo and
edges(i.e., interactions), Facebook algorithms shape the interaction of friends
through a programmed sociality based on ndability and compatibility (Bucher
2013). The construction of online spaces of socialization also enables a mobility
that fuels a networked individualismwhere people are linked by scheduling,
monitoring, surveillance, and regulation. This individualism transforms life strate-
gies while exerting new demands on the self. Unbounded and deterritorialized,
identities are no longer tied to xed localities, patterns, or cultural traditions (Elliott
and Urry 2010), and are able to participate in communities of interest that transcend
national boundaries. These communities tend to attract people from similar pro-
fessions, educational backgrounds, values, or lifestyles. As people build these
transnational networks, people can interact less with those from other social posi-
tions within their own local communities and country, reshaping their allegiances
and sense of co-citizenship (Gee and Hayes 2011; Warriner 2007).
Issues of Control and Access
While earlier views of the Internet recognized it as a decentralized and unregulated
space, Sassen (2008) points out how surveillance and management processes are
often overlooked. Governments are able to establish technical and operational
standard settings that enable agencies to collect data and engage in multiple forms
of surveillance. Corporations also privatize capabilities within the Internet that
support their interests. While the earlier Internet allowed open access to most spaces,
the growth of intranets and e-commerce have facilitated zoning,which limits
access to or distribution of goods and services on the Internet. Apart from the
ideologically laden processes of search engines, there have also been attempts by
Language, Ideology, and Critical Digital Literacy 7
government agencies and private corporations to undermine net neutrality. By
invoking the need to control information trafc for greater efciency, phone carriers
have proposed that Internet content can be delivered at variable rates. Such a
proposition would have tremendous implications on access to knowledge as power-
ful entities that can afford prioritized delivery service can push information that
serves their own interests (McKee 2011). This attempt to control the ow of
information is also reected in the cost-free access to the Internet offered by Airtel
Zero and Facebooks Marketed as corporate social responsibility
efforts, these initiatives enable economically underprivileged users to connect to
the internet. This connectivity however is limited to specic sites and applications,
thus restraining the knowledge and social networks these users can access (Murthy
Apart from institutional and corporate mechanisms of control, differential access
not only to technology but also digital literacies is an important concern of critical
digital literacy. While a great percentage of the population is still not connected to
the Internet, Prinsloo and Rowsell (2012) have also pointed out that when technol-
ogies travel and are located in new spaces, particularly in the global periphery, how
these resources are used can be subject to a number of restraints. They become
placed resourcesin that the specicity of place, its material conditions and social
practices, largely determine the use and benets of these resources. This research
extends this notion of placed resources to how even within a local context there are a
variety of ways in which technology is taken up in specic settings like home and
school. In a comparative case study of two adolescent migrant Filipino learners from
different social class positions in Vancouver, Darvin and Norton (2014) examine
how differences in economic, cultural, and social capital can shape divergent digital
literacies and language use. While both learners had similar access to devices, the
differences in mentors, home literacies, and social networks can shape their percep-
tions of what technology is for and how they should use it. In this sense, learners of
different socioeconomic backgrounds are socialized into specic digital practices
that can either facilitate or disable upward social mobility.
Work in Progress
Drawing from the New London Groups(1996) conception of design as a key
component of literacy education, Pangrazio (2016) proposes critical digital design
as a political model of digital literacy where understandings of discourse, ideology,
and power are scaffolded in the critique. Multimodal features of digital texts are
analyzed in parallel with the general architecture of technology and the Internet to
dissect how these structures reproduce systems of power and privilege. Rather than
focusing on specic technologies, the critical framework also begins with a more
personal position that reects on ones beliefs and emotions and refers to individu-
alized practice. Recognizing that ideology is intrinsic to the affective experiences of
texts, it links personal responses to digital texts to broader ideological concerns.
Through a transcendental critique,(p.8) learners create a sense of distance from
8 R. Darvin
digital media by decontextualizing everyday use and reassessing their relationship
with it. Pangrazio is currently testing the viability of this framework through a study
that integrates visualization, self-reection, and transcendentalism. The hope is that
the ndings of this study will establish an evidence-based framework for critical
digital design.
Recognizing the value of critical digital literacy, Santo (2013) has proposed the
term hacker literacies to refer to how users can go beyond critique by actively
resisting and reconguring networked public spaces. Through the dialectical rela-
tionship of the social and the technical, digital spaces are malleable, open to
reformulation and reconguration. Learners are encouraged to be hackers, not in
any malicious or unethical sense, but to encourage them to collaborate and tinker
with technology and to actively resist systemic patterns of control by powerful
entities. Hacking practices could include designing and advocating for alternative
models of privacy settings for Facebook and instigating group action where users
intentionally alter their Facebook proles to disrupt the marketing data the network-
ing site sells to companies. Reclaim Privacy, an open-source method of raising
awareness of Facebook privacy settings, created a technical response to Facebooks
complex privacy interface. Through media watchdog groups and voices in academia,
the blogosphere, and afterschool digital programs (Dooley and Exley 2015), learners
are able to participate in subcultures that are able to challenge the hegemonic control
of established sites. By learning basic coding, game modding, and do it yourself
(DIY) approaches, they are able to push back against existing designs of mainstream
companies and resist their hegemonic stranglehold.
Problems and Difficulties
A signicant challenge to developing a critical digital literacy is that because digital
media is so interwoven into the lives of learners and their personal and affective
experiences, it makes it difcult to stand back and take a more critical stance. To
reconcile the personal with the ideological requires an awareness of how digital texts
provoke strong emotions precisely because they reference a meaningful yet ideo-
logically circumscribed experience. Understanding the ideological architecture of
the digital is difcult because its technical foundation is complex and opaque, and in
schools, developing skills in navigating digital tools are prioritized over critiquing
them (Pangrazio 2016). In a study that examines the way young people use
Facebook, Pangrazio (2013) also suggests that the highly visual nature of the
medium together with the invisibility of the audience pressure young people to
adapt to the perceived conventions of the social networking site, rather than to
question them. While the participants were able to see how the site shaped their
view of others, it was more difcult to see how it shaped their own view of
themselves. Critiquing the digital practices around Facebook requires standing
outside the discourse. The banning of Facebook in some schools, however, disables
the possibility of critical analysis in classrooms. In some cases, literacy curricula do
Language, Ideology, and Critical Digital Literacy 9
not just ignore but stigmatize the literacy practices in these social networking sites
(Thorne 2013).
Another challenge in developing this critical digital literacy is that it necessitates
an understanding of complex technical processes and political economic mecha-
nisms. Luke (2014) points out that mere digital engagement is not a critical literacy
approach. Critical literacy uses media to analyze, critique, and transform the norms,
rule systems, and practices governing the social elds of institutions and everyday
life(p. 20). It seeks to reshape political consciousness, material conditions, and
social relations, and examines how new literacies can transform both local and
geopolitical relations of power. Because they are developed through a historical
materialist lens, critical literacies have no universal model and are contingent on
local realities. As digital practices of knowledge circulation, identity representation,
and social network construction are carried out within capitalist infrastructure and
are implicated in consumer culture, the power asymmetries of digital contexts
intersect with a complex political economic order. The challenge in dissecting
these contexts is that it requires a new vocabulary to critique the economic structures,
ows, and forces through which the digital thrives. At the same time, a critical
approach also involves an examination of the complex interplay of information
processing, software dynamics, linguistic processes, and cultural practices that are
at work within these digital platforms. Software has become a technocultural actor
that shapes userscultural experiences of and through the web and reects assump-
tions of roles, hierarchies, and practices. To examine how these biases and assump-
tions are embedded in digital platforms thus requires technical knowledge that is not
highly accessible (Langlois 2013).
Apart from the challenge of developing technical and political economic knowl-
edge, Pangrazio (2014) points out that current terms in digital studies mask their
ideological underpinnings and impede critical thought. Labels such as participatory
culture(Jenkins 2006) and networked public(Boyd 2014), for instance, connote
freedom, democracy, and civic engagement while concealing the gatekeeping mea-
sures and fragmented nature of these spaces. The word userreects neoliberal
ideology that positions the individual as a consumer of resources rather than an
engaged citizen. To challenge these connotations, critical discourse analysis needs to
dissect assumed meanings of concepts like free,friend,link,like, and open in digital
contexts and to rearticulate these concepts with a counterhegemonic impetus.
Future Directions
Responding to the need for a more critical understanding of how power operates in
digital contexts, Darvin and Norton (2015) have developed a model of learning that
locates investment at the intersection of identity, capital, and ideology (See Fig. 1).
Extending theories of identity and investment developed in Nortons earlier work
(Norton Peirce 1995; Norton 2013) to address the realities of a digital age, the model
recognizes that as learners retreat into private, isolated spaces and navigate both
online and ofine worlds, the mechanisms of ideology become more invisible. This
10 R. Darvin
opacity makes it increasingly difcult to recognize how specic communicative
events are indexical of macrostructures of power. To respond to this challenge, this
model of investment highlights how, as learners move uidly across spaces, ideol-
ogies collude and compete, shaping the identities of learners and positioning them in
different ways. The value of their economic, cultural, or social capital also shifts as it
travels across time and space, and is subject to the systemic patterns of control of
institutional structures and processes. By laying bare the interplay of these different
forces, the model can serve as a framework for critical digital literacy that examines
the operation of power in the digitally mediated construction of knowledge, identi-
ties, and social networks.
Instrumental also to developing this criticality, Darvin and Norton (2015) speak
of cultivating a sens pratique or practical sense that enables learners to know the
rules of the game,or the mechanisms of power that control digital contexts.
Borrowing from Bourdieu (1986), this practical sense enables learners to
(i) master the rules, norms, genres, and multimodal features specic to different
communicative contexts; (ii) seamlessly shift linguistic codes, practices, and strate-
gies while moving across spaces; and (iii) use linguistic and nonlinguistic resources
to gain access to, challenge, and transform these spaces. By repeatedly performing
these repertoires and strategies with greater autonomy, learners are able to sharpen
their critical lens and navigate different ideological landscapes. Being aware of the
linguistic and nonlinguistic features of online genres also help learners to recognize
credible news sources and identify online hoaxes. Also borrowing from Bourdieu,
Thorne (2013) speaks of the need for literacy education to develop a generative
dispositionamong learners by socializing them into ethical standards and raising
their awareness of how media shapes perception. Through this cultivated disposi-
tion, learners are not only able to identify and work with regularities, selection
systemic patterns
of control
affordances /
perceived benefits
Fig. 1 Darvin and Nortons
2015 model of investment
Language, Ideology, and Critical Digital Literacy 11
biases, and performative conventions but also to shape and transform the digital
spaces they participate in.
Recognizing how digital practices have the power to privilege some and margin-
alize others, Hull and Stornaiuolo (2014) have invoked the construct of cosmopol-
itanism to guide digital production and consumption. By enabling a global culture
of open-mindedness(Hansen 2010) and an awareness of ones role as citizen of
the world,cosmopolitanism calls for an understanding of the ethics of communi-
cating and participating in a digitally mediated world. Hence, while critical digital
literacy exposes how power operates in this world, cosmopolitanism shapes dispo-
sitions that allow learners to navigate this world with greater respect and responsi-
bility. It enables them to value diverse knowledges, cultures, and identities, and
develop a greater openness to the world (Delanty 2006), while addressing the
material inequalities that circumscribe it. By complementing critical digital literacy
with a cosmopolitan imagination, learners are able to understand that critique is not
an endpoint, but a means to achieve genuine social transformation in an increasingly
digital world.
Literacy and Identity in Mediated Contexts of Transnationalism and Mobility
Multilingualism and Multimodality in Language Use and Literacies in Digital
Related Articles in the Encyclopedia of Language and Education
Brian Street: New Literacies, New Times: Developments in Literacy Studies.In
Volume: Literacy
Kevin Leader and Cynthia Lewis: Literacy and Internet Technologies. In Volume:
Boyd, D. (2014). Its complicated. New Haven: Yale University Press.
Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. F. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of theory and
research for the sociology of education (pp. 24158). New York, NY: Greenwood Press.
Bucher, T. (2013). The friendship assemblage: Investigating programmed sociality on Facebook.
Television & New Media, 14(6), 479493.
Darvin, R. (2016). Language and identity in the digital age. In S. Preece (Ed.), Routledge handbook
of language and identity (pp. 523540). Oxon: Routledge.
Darvin, R., & Norton, B. (2014). Social class, identity, and migrant students. Journal of Language,
Identity and Education, 13(2), 111117.
Darvin, R., & Norton, B. (2015). Identity and a model of investment in applied linguistics. Annual
Review of Applied Linguistics, 35,3656.
12 R. Darvin
Delanty, G. (2006). The cosmopolitan imagination: Critical cosmopolitanism and social theory. The
British Journal of Sociology, 57(1), 2547.
Dooley, K., & Exley, B. (2015). Afterschool MediaClub: Critical literacy in a high diversity, high
poverty urban setting. In B. Yoon & R. Sharif (Eds.), Critical literacy practice: Applications of
critical theory in diverse settings (pp. 4156). London: Springer.
Elliott, A., & Urry, J. (2010). Mobile lives. Oxon: Routledge.
Facer, K. (2011). Learning futures: Education, technology and social change. London: Routledge.
Gee, J. P., & Hayes, E. R. (2011). Language and learning in the digital age. Oxon: Routledge.
Gillespie, T. (2014). The relevance of algorithms. In T. Gillespie, P. Boczkwowski, & K. Foot
(Eds.), Media technologies: Essays on communication, materiality and society (pp. 167193).
Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Giroux, H. (1994). Disturbing pleasures: Learning popular culture. London: Routledge.
Granka, L. (2010). The politics of search: A decade retrospective. The Information Society, 26(5),
Hansen, D. (2010). Cosmopolitanism and education: A view from the ground. The Teachers College
Record, 112(1), 130.
Harnad, S. (1991). Post-Gutenberg galaxy: The fourth revolution in the means of production and
knowledge. Public-Access Computer Systems Review, 2(1), 3953.
Heath, S. B., & Street, B. (2008). On ethnography: Approaches to language and literacy research,
Language & literacy (NCRLL). New York: Teachers College Press.
Hull, G. A., & Stornaiuolo, A. (2014). Cosmopolitan literacies, social networks, and proper
distance: Striving to understand in a global world. Curriculum Inquiry, 44(1), 1544.
Janks, H. (2000). Domination, access, diversity and design: A synthesis for critical literacy
education. Educational Review, 52(2), 175186.
Jenkins, H. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the
21st century. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Jones, R. H., & Hafner, C. A. (2012). Understanding digital literacies: A practical introduction.
Oxon: Routledge.
Kirkpatrick, G. (2008). Technology and social power. Hampshire: Palgrave MacMillan.
Labbo, L. D., Reinking, D., & McKenna, M. C. (1998). Technology and literacy education in the
next century: Exploring the connection between work and schooling. Peabody Journal of
Education, 73(34), 273289.
Langlois, G. (2013). Participatory culture and the new governance of communication the paradox of
participatory media. Television & New Media, 14(2), 91105.
Luke, C. (2003). Pedagogy, connectivity, multimodality, and interdisciplinarity. Reading Research
Quarterly, 38(3), 397403.
Luke, A. (2014). Dening critical literacy. In J. Avila & J. Z. Pandya (Eds.), Moving critical
literacies forward: A new look at praxis across contexts (pp. 1931). New York: Routledge.
McKee, H. A. (2011). Policy matters now and in the future: Net neutrality, corporate data mining,
and government surveillance. Computers and Composition, 28(4), 276291.
Merchant, G. (2007). Writing the future in the digital age. Literacy, 41(3), 118128.
Murthy, M. (2015). Poor internet for poor people: Why Facebooks amounts to
economic racism. Retrieved from
New London Group. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard
Educational Review, 66(1), 6093.
Norton, B. (2013). Identity and language learning: Extending the conversation (2nd ed.). Bristol:
Multilingual Matters.
Norton, B., & Williams, C. J. (2012). Digital identities, student investments and eGranary as a
placed resource. Language and Education, 26(4), 315329.
Norton Peirce, B. (1995). Social identity, investment, and language learning. TESOL Quarterly, 29
(1), 931.
Page, R. E. (2012). Stories and social media: Identities and interaction. Oxon: Routledge.
Language, Ideology, and Critical Digital Literacy 13
Pangrazio, L. (2013). Young people and Facebook: What are the challenges to adopting a critical
engagement? Digital Culture and Education, 5(1), 3447.
Pangrazio, L. (2016). Reconceptualising critical digital literacy. Discourse: Studies in the Cultural
Politics of Education, 37(2), 163174.
Pariser, E. (2011). The lter bubble: How the new personalized web is changing what we read and
how we think. New York: Penguin.
Partnership for 21st Century Skills. (2011). Framework for 21st century learning. Retrieved from
Peters, M., & Lankshear, C. (1996). Critical literacy and digital texts. Educational Theory, 46(1),
Poore, M. (2011). Digital literacy: Human ourishing and collective intelligence in a knowledge
society. Literacy Learning: The Middle Years, 19(2), 20.
Prinsloo, M., & Rowsell, J. (2012). Digital literacies as placed resources in the globalised periphery.
Language and Education, 26(4), 271277.
Santo, R. (2013). Hacker literacies: User-generated resistance and reconguration of networked
publics. In J. Avila & J. Z. Pandya (Eds.), Critical digital literacies as social praxis: Intersec-
tions and challenges. New York: Peter Lang.
Sassen, S. (2008). Territory, authority, rights: From medieval to global assemblages. Princeton:
Princeton University Press.
Snyder, I., & Prinsloo, M. (2007). Young peoples engagement with digital literacies in marginal
contexts in a globalised world. Language and Education, 21(3), 171179.
Street, B. (2003). Whatsnewin new literacy studies? Critical approaches to literacy in theory and
practice. Current Issues in Comparative Education, 5(2), 7791.
Thorne, S. L. (2013). Digital literacies. In M. Hawkins (Ed.), Framing languages and literacies:
Socially situated views and perspectives (pp. 192218). New York: Routledge.
Warriner, D. S. (2007). Transnational literacies: Immigration, language learning, and identity.
Linguistics and Education, 18(3), 201214.
Warschauer, M. (2009). Digital literacy studies: Progress and prospects. In M. Baynham &
M. Prinsloo (Eds.), The future of literacy studies (pp. 123140). London: Palgrave MacMillan.
Wohlwend, K. E., & Lewis, C. (2011). Critical literacy, critical engagement, and digital technology:
Convergence and embodiment in glocal spheres. In D. Lapp & D. Fisher (Eds.), Handbook of
research on teaching the English language arts (3rd ed., pp. 188194). Mahway: Lawrence
14 R. Darvin
... For agentive and influential involvement in online communities, language learners and teachers need to develop critical digital literacy (CDL), conceptualized by Darvin (2017) as an awareness of "how meanings are represented in ways that maintain and reproduce relations of power" (p. 5) and thus privilege some and marginalize others online. Virtual exchange (VE) provides an ideal socio-cultural and socio-semiotic context for fostering CDL (Hauck, 2019) as it is an educational intervention that is-by default-digitally mediated. ...
... The current article belongs to this emerging body of research and uses social semiotics (Bezemer & Kress, 2016) as an analytical framework. In doing so we align with the SLA approach to CDL described by Hauck (2019) and Bilki et al. (2023), who conceptualize CDL as VE participants' "awareness of the impact of digital meaning-making in establishing, maintaining, and (re)producing intercultural understandings and relationships of power (Darvin, 2017;Jones & Hafner, 2012)" (p. 71). ...
... 2). He also propounds that digital literacy from a critical lens helps us understand how technologies are used in situated and encultured ways-something Thorne (2003Thorne ( , 2016 refers to as cultures-of-use-and how the material dimensions of online spaces can be indicative of dominant ideologies, economies, and institutions (Darvin, 2017). The latter has been echoed by Helm (2019) in relation to VE, who points out that the online environments used for exchanges are not ideologically neutral, nor are they inherently equitable. ...
... During the initial literature survey, we identified publications that specifically addressed methodological principles of TBLT, CALL, and technology-enhanced language learning and teaching. The main references that came up were Doughty and Long (2003), Chapelle and Sauro (2017), Darvin (2017), Chun et al. (2016), González-Lloret and Ortega (2014), Kramsch (2014), Levy and Stockwell (2013), Sauro and Chapelle (2017), Bax (2011), and Thorne (2016). ...
... This set included examples of some of the most contested principles and incorporated different nuances and perspectives to make some of the principles more inclusive, in addition to further references to the literature to support the principles. The new set of principles incorporated an additional principle based on suggestions from several experts that addressed the transformative role of language learning beyond content knowledge and affecting identities (Darvin, 2017). Some of the comments challenged the fact that some principles showed a bias towards one of the binary notions of certain language acquisition processes (e.g. ...
... This dropped to 76% agreement in its second formulation where we introduced a slight change in terminology when referring to the basic skills, which changed from "basic skills" to "basic modes of communication," and included intercultural mediation as an additional skill. The authors of a number of recent articles (Chun et al., 2016;Darvin, 2017;Sauro & Chapelle, 2017) stress the importance of developing these skills and competences by integrating them into current language learning practices, and indeed the experts did not include substantial criticisms about this principle in the second round. However, and given that they marked the principle down, we think the principle did not benefit from the reformulation in its second version. ...
Full-text available
This paper reports on ongoing research aimed at characterizing a signature pedagogy (Shulman, 2005) of technology-enhanced task-based language teaching (TETBLT). To achieve this goal, we initially identified 15 pedagogical principles and practices distinctive of TETBLT. This initial set of principles and practices were motivated by second language acquisition theories (Doughty & Long, 2003), methodological approaches in foreign language teaching (Kramsch, 2014), and state-of-the-art publications on computer-assisted language learning (Chapelle & Sauro, 2017). During the first phase of the study, we consulted an initial group of 34 experts in the field, using the Delphi technique to achieve gradual consensus about the set of principles. After analyzing the first set of responses (N = 23) to the principles, which attained a degree of agreement averaging 71% and ranging from 48% to 96%, we refined the principles incorporating the feedback received and sent out a second questionnaire, which allowed us to reach a consensus about a set of eight robust pedagogical principles for TETBLT.
... Pangrazio (2016) argues that there are multiple forms of critical digital literacy (CDL) because we cannot explain varied and distributed everyday digital practices using a single concept. Darvin (2017) approaches CDL with a focus on how meaning representation maintains or (re)produces power relations. In VE contexts, Hauck (2019) perceives CDL as "the ability to exercise agency" (p. ...
... The emerging CDL conceptualisation we present in this paper aligns with the SLA approach described by Hauck (2019) as participants' ability to exercise agency when interacting with others via digital media. This requires (1) a critical awareness of the social semiotic (meaning-making) potentials, affordances, and limitations of digital tools and of how meaning representation can maintain or (re)produce power relations (Darvin, 2017), and (2) an ability to act with agency in establishing intercultural understandings and relationships (Jones & Hafner, 2012;Lim et al., 2022). ...
... This can eventually lead to social inequalities by privileging some people (thus empowering them) while marginalising others (Bourdieu, 1991). Darvin's (2017) approach to CDL with a focus on how meaning representation maintains or (re)produces power relations resonates well with this (social) semiotic approach to SLA. ...
Full-text available
Virtual exchange (VE) is an ideal venue for digital literacy skills development (Fuchs, Hauck & Müller-Hartmann, 2012) and for critical digital literacy (CDL) (Hauck, 2019). Yet literacy is a fluid, deictic term, the meaning of which is context dependent, and digital literacies need to be defined and conceptualised within a specific context. Recent CALL literature highlights the interest in CDL from various perspectives, but how CDL is conceptualised by the VE participants themselves is not explored. Participants of this study were 37 trainee English language teachers in the UK and Turkey who joined a 6-week VE. Their ongoing reflections on CDL were captured through reflective e-portfolio entries following each VE task. Thematic analysis revealed four components of CDL in this specific VE: (1) participants’ awareness of digital affordances for self-expression, (2) semiotic and interactional means to build connections, (3) ensuring inclusiveness of all community members, and (4) implications of socio-political contexts of each participant for meaning-making and interaction. We conclude that in future pedagogical implementations of VE, facilitators can foster trainee teachers’ CDL development through more closely guided and informed reflection on the four themes presented in this paper. As such, this study makes a novel contribution to our understanding of CDL in VE settings for ELT teacher education by offering a social semiotic second language acquisition orientation within an interpretivist paradigm.
... Criticallyreflective intercultural speakers need to be able to negotiate between their own cultural, social and political identifications and representations and those of the other, while accepting that identities are multiple, ambivalent and elastic. In our current digitalized world, this ambivalence and elasticity is magnified as learners navigate spaces more fluidly and in often disembodied ways (Darvin, 2017). ...
... Educators also need to help learners understand how power operates within and through online and digital structures and cultures, which may be summarised as "techno-ethic awareness" (Dooly & Thorne, 2018). Bringing critical orientation to these ethical issues draws attention to how users, tools, and contexts interact in ways that can legitimize specific knowledge and behaviour, while delegitimizing other behaviours and norms (Darvin, 2017). Learners must learn to critique how digital practices and norms have an impact both on and offline. ...
Full-text available
As the introduction to this special issue on virtual exchange (VE), this paper presents a glimpse back at the development of VE through the lens of the central definitions that have been historically associated with VE and how these have had an impact on the evolution of VE practice and research. Next, the role of intercultural competence (IC) is discussed. IC is a prominent aspect of VE in foreign language education and also emerges as a primary topic in the articles in this special issue. Given that VE is most commonly identified within formal education contexts, the article then foregrounds recent debate on whether VE is an educational approach or method and how this may impact teacher education. Finally, looking forward, the text outlines the importance of VE for upcoming generations and how VE might keep pace with anticipated technological advances.
... Despite this, there was no evidence that they were already in the critical digital literacy stage. Darvin (2017) remarked that a considerable challenge for developing critical digital literacy is because digital media are entangled in learners' lives, personal and affective experiences. ...
... It is also the teacher's responsibility to help learners acquire valid information from the internet." (An EFL Teacher) Darvin (2017) exclaimed that the learners could understand that critique is not an endpoint, but a means to achieve genuine social transformation in an increasingly digital world by complementing critical digital literacy. ...
The covid-19 pandemic has brought influential disruptions to the education sector. EFL teachers ought to find ways to trigger their learners by utilizing ICT. Digital literacy tools which it possible for young learners to improve their understanding of every word, text, and meaning conveyed. There will be new risks and threats that can only be countered with adequate digital literacy knowledge in all-digital situations. Young learners are indicated as Gen-Z, which might be digital natives. Thus, this study aims to survey EFL teacher and learners in digital literacy at the level of young learners, focusing on the critical digital literacy skills in a rural school. To obtain the data, the authors used questionnaires and some interviews. To assess the young learners’ view, the authors tracked it of 31 EFL learners by using questionnaires. While the interview is used to the EFL teacher’ view. Evidences show the role of critical digital literacy is considered it an effective ability to be acquired in learning English, and it can increase the young learners’ motivation because in learning English using technology is easier and more enjoyable.
Full-text available
21st-century EFL teachers are assumed to be properly trained to help develop future generations' language proficiency and digital literacy. Moreover, with the impact that the current pandemic has had on education, technology seems to be the only possible way to guarantee the continuity of teaching and learning. Considering that English is the most studied foreign language in Europe, it is necessary thus to analyse whether EFL teachers believe they are prepared for such a task and whether studying at a distance university improves their training in this respect. This study examines the perceptions of pre-service teachers of English studying at the Spanish National University of Distance Education regarding their digital literacy. Through a quasi-experimental, quantitative design, findings show that participants value their digital skills positively but consider they have not worked enough on their digital literacy despite studying at a distance university. Men show more positive self-perceptions than women, while respondents with less years of university experience value their digital skills more positively. Furthermore, respondents acknowledge not knowing how to assess or improve their digital literacy. The results suggest the need for distance universities like UNED to strengthen teacher training in digital skills.
Conference Paper
The study examined students’ perceptions of participating in collaborative learning activities in ICTPED MOOC (Pedagogical Information and Communication Technology (ICTPED) Massive Open Online Course) offered by a University College in Norway aiming to develop professional digital competence in students. The study also provided an insight into what students' perceptions and experiences of taking part in collaborative learning practices suggest when it comes to promoting collaborative learning activities in MOOCs, and online learning environments. Analyses of the post-course survey data suggested that most of the students were satisfied with opportunities to learn collaboratively through discussion forums, peer reviews, and online video meetings. The asynchronous modes of collaboration (discussion forum and peer review) remained dominant modes of collaboration, compared to the synchronous ones (online meetings). However, data suggest many factors such as feeling interfering in others’ activities, being exposed to unknown peers, and unknown technology might hinder students' participation in online collaborative learning activities.
Discourses surrounding digital technologies have often foregrounded their capacity to connect people however, in reality, online communication can also result in fragmentation, polarization and modes of exclusion. To address these issues, this paper highlights the need for learners to develop a critical digital literacy (CDL) that contributes to a greater understanding of how power and ideologies operate online. By proposing a two-pronged teaching strategy that integrates inquiry-based learning and digital activism, this paper seeks to demonstrate how the field of language and intercultural communication can help imagine a more equitable and inclusive online world through focused teaching strategies.
Information and communication technologies are transforming the way we read, write, interact, find and make use of information, and participate in public life (Coiro et al. 2008). The development and diffusion of these technologies thus present important challenges to the field of Literacy Studies.
Identity and Language Learning draws on a longitudinal case study of immigrant women in Canada to develop new ideas about identity, investment, and imagined communities in the field of language learning and teaching. Bonny Norton demonstrates that a poststructuralist conception of identity as multiple, a site of struggle, and subject to change across time and place is highly productive for understanding language learning. Her sociological construct of investment is an important complement to psychological theories of motivation. The implications for language teaching and teacher education are profound. Now including a new, comprehensive Introduction as well as an Afterword by Claire Kramsch, this second edition addresses the following central questions: -Under what conditions do language learners speak, listen, read and write? -How are relations of power implicated in the negotiation of identity? -How can teachers address the investments and imagined identities of learners? The book integrates research, theory, and classroom practice, and is essential reading for students, teachers and researchers in the fields of language learning and teaching, TESOL, applied linguistics and literacy.
Background/ Context In recent years, scholars the world over in both the social sciences and humanities have reanimated the ancient idea of cosmopolitanism. They discern in the idea ways in which people today can respond creatively to rapid social, political, cultural, and economic transformations. Scholars in this burgeoning field have examined issues involving cultural hybridity, global citizenship, environmental justice, economic redistribution, and more. In the article, I examine from a philosophical perspective how a cosmopolitan-minded education can assist people in cultivating thoughtful receptivity to the new and reflective loyalty to the known. Purpose/ Objective/ Research Question/ Focus of Study Philosophical work has begun on possible relations between cosmopolitanism and education. However, there are virtually no published studies that deploy a systematic cosmopolitan frame of analysis in conjunction with qualitative or quantitative research. This article seeks to encourage such research by elucidating a distinctive conception of cosmopolitanism rooted in one of its long-standing strands. This strand is characterized as cosmopolitanism on the ground, and it features what has been called “philosophy as the art of living” and “actually existing cosmopolitanism.” Research Design The article is a philosophical investigation that builds an argument using the techniques of conceptual analysis, comparison, contrast, analogy, metaphor, illustration, and exegesis of texts. Conclusions/ Recommendations The long-standing strand of cosmopolitanism on the ground generates several key elements of a philosophy of cosmopolitan-minded education. These elements are (1) a recognition of the importance of local socialization as making possible education itself, (2) the recognition that a cosmopolitan outlook triggers a critical rather than idolatrous or negligent attitude toward tradition and custom, (3) the recognition that curriculum across all subjects can be understood as a cosmopolitan inheritance, and (4) the recognition that many teachers constitute an already existing cosmopolitan community and can build on their shared purposes to enhance educational practice the world over.
They argue that the role of oral language is almost always entirely misunderstood in debates about digital media. Like the earlier inventions of writing and print, digital media actually “power up” or enhance the powers of oral language.