Monday, September 5, 2005

New London Group, "A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies"

We're on with four articles for Wednesday's meeting of 691: Crafting Researchable Questions.  We broke up responsibilities for question-bringing, two or three primary respondents/discussion-framers to each of the articles, but I have brief notes here on each of the articles (something I can carry to class, search later, etc.).  My lead article, however, is a chapter from the New London Group's Multiliteracies: Literacy Learning and the Design of Social Futures.  The citation says the book was published in 2000; this chapter--"A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures"--was circulated as early as 1996, I think.  Roughly, the chapter--the opening chapter in the book--sets up the what and how of a pedagogy of multiliteracies (many-literacies, a lifting the lid from monoliteracies...yes?)--the multi- that "allows [learners] to participate fully in public, community, and economic life" (9).

Already in the second paragraph, two aims for their work:

First, we want to extend the idea and scope of literacy pedagogy to account for the context of our culturally and linguistically diverse and increasingly globalised societies; to account for the multifarious cultures that interrelate and the plurality of texts that circulate.  Second, we argue that literacy pedagogy now must account for the burgeoning variety of text forms associated with information and multimedia technologies (9).

As I read the chapter, I keyed on the second point because (-1-) I'm interested in "information and multimedia technologies," and (-2-) I had doubts that NLG would come close to post-literacy or Anne Wysocki and Johndan Johnson-Eilola in "Blinded by the Letter" or Ulmer's electracy.  Although "designing" figures significantly into NLG's multiliteracy pedagogy, writing technologies and digital apparatuses are all but eclipsed in the rest of the chapter (can't say about the remainder of the book).  Just two more mentions of tech I could find: an off-handed jab at "technocrats" (13) and alarm over the "increasing invasion of private spaces by mass media culture" (16).

What, then, of this pedagogy of multiliteracies remains for us to consider?  Early on, NLG splits the "realms of change" into "our working lives, our public lives (citizenship), and our personal lives (lifeworlds)" (10).  Their proposed pedagogy works through the flattening of hierarchies (check Weaver's "holarchies"), which fits nicely with network studies, "productive diversity," the dissolution of standards in public discourse (14), the structural, historical dimensions of diversity (15), and the "conversationalization" of public language (16).  According to NLG, schools are the obvious site of intervention for teaching and learning that supports adjustments to these realms of change, and consequently, "curriculum now needs to mesh with different subjectivities, and with their attendant languages, discourses, and registers, and use these as a resource for learning" (18). To bring such change about, then, the NLG says we need to think in terms of three elements: "Available Designs, Designing, and The Redesigned" (20).  Each of these phases (para.: inertial, activity and systems-based, and re-made or hybridized) accords to one of the design elements: linguistic, audio, visual, gestural and spatial (no temporal?), and in NLG's explanation of the elements, linguistic gets a good deal of attention; the others, much less. 

I have a few other questions (i.e., the absence of "rhetoric," NLG's take on nominalisation (29)), but I'm just as interested in the idea that the International Multiliteracies project would adopt a metalanguage for "analysing the Design of meaning with respect to 'orders of discourse,'" ultimately moving from genre and discourse to specific questions such as "what's the game?" and "what's the angle?" (24).   What about it?  It's their notion of "game" that set me to digging around for Giddens' stuff on structuration from the course this summer.  In "Problems of Action and Structure," after explaining that "game analogies can be highly misleading," (117) Giddens writes:

Rules can only be grasped in the context of the historical development of social totalities, as recursively implicated in practices.  This point is important in a twofold sense. (a) There is not a singular relation between 'an activity' and 'a rule,' as is sometimes suggested or implied by appeal to statements like 'the rule governing the Queen's move' in chess.  Activities or practices are brought into being in the context of overlapping and connected sets of rules, given coherence by their involvement in the constitution of social systems in the movement of time. (b) Rules cannot be exhaustively described or analysed in terms of their own content, as prescriptions, prohibitions, etc.: precisely because, apart from those circumstances where a relevant lexicon exists, rules and practices exist only in conjunction with one another. (118)

Is Giddens right?  If so, what are the limits to framing discourse/genre activity in terms of games (as well as corresponding rules)?  And what's left lying (neglected, overlooked) in a game/rules theory of design elements (applied to language first, then second-order elements)? 

Key terms: multiliteracy, literacy pedagogy, productive diversity (13), "assimilatory function of school" (18), genre (21), designing (22), redesigning (hybridisation) (23), game (24), genre and intertextuality (25), pattern recognition (31), critical understanding (activity) (32), situated practice (33), reflective practice (35)

Other notes for 691:

Judith Butler's "Doing Justice to Someone: Sex Reassignment and Allegories of Transexuality" from Undoing Gender
Butler works through the quandary of a case-study methodology and a notion of "doing justice." She approaches the constitution of gender (a core gender, an essential gender), from sociocultural forces to the bodily and biological/hormonal variables involved.  In a sense, Butler presents a reading of the case of David Reimer and, in the process, suggests a compelling bundle of factors, which, taken together, challenge dimorphism with something like chromosomic multisexes (a phrase I heard about when VV ref'ed Butler's book at the Cortland Conf. last October).  

Gordon Brent Ingram's "Returning to the Scene of the Crime," GLQ 10:1
Ingram's methodology involves historiography, geography and analysis of space-based legal discourse--specifically the legal dossiers of court cases involving what he terms "sexual minorities."  Basically, Ingram historicizes urban sexuality in British Columbia (Vancouver and Victoria); he urges us to generalize this historically and geographically specific work by "examining the local forms of homoerotic networks, repression, resistance, and agency and comparing them with those of other regions" (79).  He names networks frequently in this article, but his object-places seem to toggle between urban/rural and public/private rather than scaling along a differentiated third term--the sort of complexity-blend between urban/rural and public/private that network vocabularies make available. And why doesn't Igram make use of maps?  Inasmuch as his project articulates the tension between institutions of law and homosexual networks before and after the decriminalization of sodomy and associated acts, I would have been interested in seeing an attempt to map the "sex crimes."  The argument for reading urban space (and its histories) in light of the networks suggested by legal dossiers is something I hadn't considered.  Ingram's methodology comes at historical work by drawing together urban development/formation, sexual (and otherwise socially networked) geographies, and legal rhetoric. 

There's a fourth article on doing diversity work, but it's unbloggable: can't cite it outside of class.

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