New Learners of the 21st Century

Though transliteracy isn’t just about the digital world, there is no denying that the rapid changes that occur as we enter the digital millennium are driving a big part of the research into transliteracy. To that end, I’m really looking forward to the upcoming PBS documentary Digital Media: New Learners of the 21st Century. You may have already marked it on your calendars but, in case you haven’t, the documentary airs Sunday, February 13, at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT.

Whether this documentary adds anything new or just rehashes the same-old, same-old, I’m curious to see what people think. Click the image below for a short preview…

Posted in Digital Literacy, Education, Videos. Tags: . Comments Off

Social Media and the End of Gender

In her Ted talk, Social Media and the End of Gender, Johanna Blakley, the Deputy Director of the Norman Lear Center, does not so much predict the end of gender but more so the end of media created stereotypes of gender. She believes that social media will “free us from absurd assumptions about gender.” She believes this change is possible because social media transcends the old demographics that media corporations use to sell culture back to us. Through social media, people aggregate according to interests and values rather than overly general categories of age and gender. She points out that, worldwide, women outnumber men in use of social media technology, which could drive a change in the media landscape.

What’s interesting for our discussion is her analysis of how companies are beginning to look at how individuals use social media and the recognition that old media types are being reconsidered in light of how people interact with it. Most importantly, she describes a major culture shift in which members of social media groups, because they aggregate around tastes and interests, no longer needing the help of a media company to navigate the ways in which they spend their time and money.

Part of the definition of transliteracy put forth by Sue Thomas, et al, includes a very similar concept:

The literacies (digital, numerate, oral) may be different, but the transliteracies (social, economic, political) often transect them in similar ways, depending on cultural context. For example,  in recent years we have begun to switch from searching for information in encyclopedias, indices and catalogues to querying the kinds of data collections that existed before books–that is to say, we are asking each other.

In other words: “knowledge networks are inherently people-to-people.”

What Blakley’s talk also gets at is the notion that Thomas, et al, develop based on the ideas of Bernard Stiegler. Stiegler proffered that discussions of technology are “polarized between anxiety and euphoria” and that his response is a refusal “to distance technology from life; and to suggest that human individuation and technology have always had a transductive relationship.”

Social media, as Blakley describes, allows technology to return some level of human individuation. Although media companies still monitor user behavior, they can do so in a more respectful way because they are monitoring actual interests and values and not just making assumptions based on broad demographic categories.

Libraries use social media mainly to promote collections and services, but they can also use social media to aggregate students by meaningful categories, such as research interests, rather than overly broad categories like “millennials,” which may do more of a disservice to students by not exploring a more insightful understanding of their interests and values.

Transliteracy…or Metaliteracy?

One of the goals here at Libraries and Translitercy is to situate transliteracy within an increasingly diverse array of competing “literacies”. While information literacy has persisted for decades as a core concept in librarianship, we now also have to grapple with digital literacy, visual literacy, cyberliteracy, new media literacy, and a host of other responses to defining literacy in the digital age. Keeping track of these literacies is rather confusing, so the recent article1 by Mackey and Jacobson in College and Research Libraries is sorely needed.

In a nutshell, Mackey and Jacobson argue that information literacy needs to be recast as a unifying concept providing the framework for different literacy types. ‘Metaliteracy’ is offered as this unifying concept. As they write,

“metaliteracy provides a conceptual framework for information literacy that diminishes theoretical differences, builds practical connections, and reinforces central lifelong learning goals among different literacy types.  Rather than envision these methods as unrelated or disconnected, we see information literacy as the essential framework that informs and unifies additional literacy types.  Through this approach we recognize the standard information literacy characteristics (determine, access, evaluate, incorporate, use, understand) as integral to related literacy formats.” (p. 76)

The authors even briefly mention transliteracy, correctly describing it as a unifying approach to literacies that has been developed outside of the library world (p.69).  In fact, the authors’ description of metaliteracy is so strikingly similar to those given to transliteracy that I feel I have to ask…do ‘metaliteracy’ and ‘transliteracy’ refer to the same concept? If so, which term should we use?  If they are different, how are they different?

I, for one, have no problem with using either term so long as the same practical concerns are addressed, but I’m curious to see what others think. Are transliteracy and metaliteracy (as described by Mackey and Jacobson) the same thing?

1Mackey, Thomas and Trudi Jacobson. “Reframing Information Literacy as a Metaliteracy.” College and Research Libraries 72, no. 1 (2011): 62-78.

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