Monday, March 12, 2012

Week 9: Transliteracy

During this week you will want to refer to Professor Sue Thomas's guest lecture.

The ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks.”

The word “transliteracy” is derived from the verb “to transliterate,” meaning to write or print a letter or word using the closest corresponding letters of a different alphabet or language. 

The idea of transliteracy is really about promoting a unifying ecology. As Thomas explains, 
“The concept of transliteracy calls for a change of perspective away from the battles over print versus digital, and a move instead towards a unifying ecology not just of media, but of all literacies relevant to reading, writing, interaction and culture, both past and present.
 It is an opportunity to cross some hitherto quite difficult divides.” 
Transliteracy asks key questions about communication:
  1. How were people remembering and communicating for the thousands of years before writing?
  2. Where are the similarities with the way we communicate today?
  3. Has our addiction to print made us forget skills we had before?
  4. Can digital media reconnect us with those skills again?

Watch “Social Media Revolution” on YouTube:  

Literacy is not linear. ““Part of the confusion about media convergence stems from the fact that when people talk about it, they’re actually describing at least five processes” (Henry Jenkins, 2001). 
  • technological
  • economic
  • social or organic
  • cultural
  • global

Another term which has become widely used about these kinds of experiences, especially by the media and gaming worlds, is “convergence.” In 2001 when Henry Jenkins noted the confusion about media convergence actually is because of the various processes that are at play (it is not one single required literacy). For Jenkins, “these multiple forms of media convergence are leading us toward a digital renaissance - a period of transition and transformation that will affect all aspects of our lives” (Jenkins, 2001). 
Sue Thomas often refers to the Asheninka tribe as an example of a transliterate group. For them transliteracy imbues every aspect of their culture:
“Everything we use has a story. Each drawing which is passed from one generation to another is our writing; each little symbol has an immense story. As one learns a drawing, one learns its origin, who taught it, who brought it to us.”

Discussion Questions:

Q1. What is transliteracy? Give examples of how transliteracy appears in your daily life.

Q2. How does Coover’s “The End of Books” (originally written in 1992) align with a contemporary thinking of transliteracy and the development of the web into web 2.0?

Q3. According to Aarseth’s “Nonlinearity and Literary Theory,” “the text...entails a set of powerful metaphysics...the three most important ones are those of reading, writing and stability” (763).  Having read about and discussed the idea of transliteracy, would you suggest adding or changing any of the three elements that Aarseth notes as most important? Must “users” (readers) “learn to accept their position as agents of the text” or might they play a more decisive role (as in Andy Campbell’s works)?

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