Yes, I’ve resisted the idea of replacing print literacy with all things digital and I’ve resisted the notion of burdening comp faculty with new responsibilities when teaching students to compose in one medium is difficult enough (hey, I’m a pragmatist to the death), but I found Lessig’s 2007 TED talk very compelling in how he juxtaposed the 20th century as the age of consumption of media with the 21st century as the age of both consumption and production. He shows how, with access to digital technologies, young people are contributing to important conversations in ways that they haven’t been able to in the past. In effect, young people have created new ways of responding as in the video remixing he illustrates. As Lessig argues, these creative modes of composing have become the “tools of speech.”
“Reading” this week’s texts about the read/write culture that many of our students are lucky to have been born into (I say lucky as I imagine the power and potential this “participatory culture” allows), I couldn’t help making connections to the Integrated Reading & Writing program and philosophy that dominates here at SFSU as a way to teach developmental writing. At least as far as the program is concerned, post-secondary reading is a difficult endeavor and we have to teach students to be critical consumers of college-level texts while teaching them to be critical producers. A program that has expanded the domain of our comp classes here at SFSU to a focus on both consumption and production seems naturally poised to make the most of the power and potential of digital literacy.
Perhaps, our own IRW can aim for the “media convergence” that Jenkins (2006) discusses and fully embrace the potential of “participatory culture.” It seems to me that by encouraging students to be real participants, contributing on the literal and metaphorical web in ways that will reach real audiences, we will encourage our students to be better writers/producers, and the awareness of their participation in ongoing network of conversations, in turn, will help shape their awareness of themselves as critical reader/consumers. In other words, we can’t artificially separate the two halves of literacy, especially when we include the realm of digitally literacy.