New Literacies, values, voices, and technology

There is something especially appropriate about writing a post about “New Literacies” on a collaborative blog, especially a blog that I don’t “own” or control.  I’m participating in an interactive space where I can not only link to relevant things, but other people can link back to me, or reply to me, or any number of other instant social things.  The “owner” of the blog can also potentially come in and edit my words, or migrate this post and all others in the blog into another format.

But, wait, there’s more! WordPress notifies me “Draft saved at 1:46:51 pm”, which also lets me know that the text itself is also being broken up into packets, copied, transported, transmitted, stored, erased, and re-distributed all over the world even now, as I type in these words!  After I click the “publish” button, this text will get pushed and pulled through data centers and and finally onto the machines of anyone who reads this post.   It’s a bit mind-boggling when you think of how different the “mechanics” involved in producing and consuming text are compared to what it is with so-called “dead tree” books.

But all of that is really just an interesting aside, right? I guess you should probably ignore my giggle fits over how freaking cool this is.

Or should you?  (Cue ominous suspenseful music.)

In the first chapter of “New Literacy Sampler”, Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel discuss how literacies can be thought of as a person’s ability to engage in a specific discourse, and how the advent of social online technologies results in a kind of explosion of various literacies, discourses, and identities for people to occupy.  For them, literacy means more than a person’s ability to read and write–it refers to a person’s fluency and comfort participating in a given discourse. It’s a set of skills appropriate for a given community, and having or not having those skills signal whether someone is part of an “in-group” or not.  There is much much more to their discussion about how to draw a line between old and “new” literacies, as well as how “new” literacies represent and require changes in how we think about everything from authorship, ownership, identity, business, and text. However, the way they implicitly define literacy is what I want to highlight here.

So what does it mean when we apply the metaphor of “literacy” to such a wide variety of practices?   In “Blinded by the Letter – Why Are We Using Literacy as a Metaphor for Everything Else?”, Wysocki and Johndan say that “too much is hidden by [the word] ‘literacy’… too much that we are wrong to bring with us”.  They discuss how “literacy” is problematic not simply because it’s hard to define. They remind us of the social implications and baggage that historically and currently are still tied to the word “literacy”.  They remind us that the “myth of literacy”–that gaining “literacy” will somehow empower and lift people up to the same level–is in fact a myth.  While gaining literacy (no matter how you are defining it) is a useful tool to help one participate in a given discourse, it is not value-neutral, and it does nothing to solve the underlying causes of inequality, socio-economic problems, racism, or other problems.  They remind us that teaching kids in a poor neighborhood to love reading, writing, or Facebook, will not inevitably make them feel like they can participate in the dominant public discourse when they grow up.   Wysocki and Johndan remind us essentially that literacy is not a magic bullet solution to social problems, and caution us not to think of these skills which we keep calling “literacies” in this way.

I think this reminder is especially relevant with regards to discussions about the internet, and especially “Web 2.0”, which is all about participatory webservices, a blurring of the lines between creator and consumer of content, and the dissolution of “authority”.  Many people see the internet as a place where “anyone can have a voice”, and they think of it as a kind of “great democratizer”.  Making sure young people have basic computer skills in addition to reading and writing skills has become a topic of educational policy and practice exactly for this reason.   Companies and industries thrive in their efforts to create newer, more connective, and more feature-ful services and technologies because of how important these “new literacies” have become to us and perhaps because they share the dream of giving everyone a voice online.

I think if you asked Wysocki and Johndan, they’d remind us that there is a danger in unbridled enthusiasm for the technologies driving these “New Literacies”, especially if they are adopted without being conscious of how existing social problems and power structures may be reinforced or further perpetrated within them.

I’ll use an example of a certain social website, reddit.com.  reddit (which is always written in lower-case) is a social news site and web community where members post content, and other members vote either up or down to indicate how they felt about a given article, story, or comment.  The idea is that “good” content, comments, and discussion will bubble up to the most prominent areas of the site, and “bad” content will be buried and eventually drop out entirely. It’s a typical example of a web service that tries to “democratize” the web. Only, there are problems.

Once you begin to engage in discussions on reddit, it becomes pretty clear that there is a set of values, ideologies, and voices that as a whole the community values and seems to give voice to through their votes.  Unpopular values and viewpoints are regularly “downvoted to oblivion”.  Reddit itself is also conscious of this trend, describing this practice as someone being a “victim of the reddit hivemind”.  In response to this culture, minority groups, voices, and people with “unpopular” views carve out their own communities in sub-sections of reddit where, while their ideas and discussions may be more appreciated, they are no longer participating in the “mainstream” portion of reddit as a whole.

reddit is just one example of a place where the dream of technology and literacy empowering and enabling everyone falls short of its goal.   Instead, we find that in our enthusiasm, we may have simply created a cyberspace version of existing social problems that literacy (both old and “new”) have only limited power to truly solve.  Offline, there are countless examples where minority groups who have literacy skills may still not be able to participate in mainstream culture, because mainstream culture doesn’t represent or reflect them.

So what does all of this have to do with the way I started this blog entry? My enthusiasm for how all this technical stuff works wasn’t just me geeking out for its own sake (okay, maybe it started out that way).  Really, I wanted to demonstrate one way that it is possible to become totally unaware of, or even ignore, the social context in which these technologies sit. It’s easy to take these New Literacies for granted, and allow ourselves to forget that technology and New Literacies are not value-neutral, and they carry with them all the things (good and bad) of the society that created them.

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Ah Violetta! A different kind of Multi-Tasking? Collaborative Function as an Index of PostModernity

Recently, at a desk bestrewn with empty coffee cups, a half-dozen books, digital audio equipment, handwritten lists, old syllabi, and class notebooks, I’ve found myself multitasking. Similarly, my typically tidy virtual desktop has become cluttered with quite a number of pdf articles, garage band files, electronic “sticky” notes in all colors, word documents in various states of editing or abandonment, and a slew of photos awaiting sifting and sorting.

Given the mundane/virtual dust-devil of texts I’ve been interacting with and generating these days, I’m very interested in the discussion of multi-tasking I’ve been encountering in critical discussions of digital and new literacy.  After all, if my desk/desktop is any indication, shouldn’t I, as a multi-tasker with a laptop at the heart of it all, be able to find myself represented in articles discussing digital textuality and new media?

Lankshear and Knobel, in their 2004 plenary address to the NRC, “New” Literacies:  Research and Social Practice, commented glowingly on the work of Angela Thomas, noting her interest in the “ways in which children construct their identities in multimodal digital worlds,” and held her research up as “an excellent exemplar of how weblogs and chat spaces, among other online media, can be used as research tools.”

When I cam upon Lankshear and Knobel’s discussion of Thomas, I was drawn to the words of Violetta, one of the digital insiders interviewed online by Thomas:

I need to make a confession right now, I am talking to you but at the same time I am talking to this cool guy Matt who I know from school, and trying to do some homework – an essay for which I am hunting some info on the web – you know, throw in some jazzy pics from the web and teachers go wild about your ‘technological literacy skills’ skills.  Big deal.  If they ever saw me at my desk right now, ME, the queen of multi-tasking, they’d have no clue what was happening.

Re-reading Violetta’s last line gives me, a teacher and older user of technology, pause.  Don’t older or less frequent user-creators of new media, many of us latecomers to the party, multitask too?  Are our styles of multitasking really so different from Violetta’s?

In “Sampling the New Literacies” Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel write:

Multitasking has become ubiquitous among digital youth.  Moreover, the multitasking mode is not seen simply [as] some casual kind of modes operandi confined to interactions with one’s closest friends – as when chatting, roleplaying, updating a weblog, IM-ing, etc. simultaneously . . . . Rather it is widely seen as a way of operating that applies generally in everyday life at home, at school and at play. (15)

On the basis of such input, I’m still not convinced that Violetta has anything on me.  I like to sneak a text out to a friend during class at least as much (hell, perhaps more than) most of my students.  And, to be sure, I’ll leave facebook open while paying bills, g-chatting, answering professional correspondence, writing for fun, emailing my parents, taking notes for a role playing game, listening to music, or playing/recording a guitar.

Through coordinations of self/technology/and context, we perceive ourselves, and intuit how others may read us.

However, Lankshear and Knobel do have more to offer.  In positioning their concept of new literacy into the discourse theory of James Gee, they cover the idea of coordinations through which our situated-selves enact literacies within discourse.  This catchall phrase reminds us to consider the myriad elements bound up with incarnating literacy:  thoughts, feelings, rules, institutions, tools, accessories, clothes, language, etc.  “Within such coordinations,” according to Gee, “we humans become recognizable to ourselves and to others and recognize ourselves, other people, and things as meaningful in distinctive ways.”

Perhaps Violetta’s statement suggests a refined sense of how the various coordinations invoked in her digital literacy present (or interpolate, in the Althusserian sense) her as a subject, one with creative agency, but one who also may be seen, even studied, as such.  After all, she casually mocks teachers for praising even a cursory expression of “technological literacy.”  That is, to take up Gee’s reasoning, she has a subtle awareness of how the coordinations that frame the ongoing practice of her own literacy simultaneously enables her generative self-styling of a public persona and provides surfaces through which others may find her persona legible.

Thinking through Gee’s coordinations again, which include thinking and feeling, I’m led to consider the possibility that, even if people like Violetta and I each use some of the same technology, perhaps even in somewhat similar ways, perhaps the way we think and feel about our respective digital practices are what matter.

In Lankshear and Knobel’s charting of the ethoi underpinning the practices of typographic and digital textuality, we find a wide range of theory suggesting that typographic literacy and digital literacy carry with them a number of rather different assumptions, such as the way in which ideas are given value – such as through scarcity (typographic) or sharing (digital).  I grew up in a world in which the economic model of scarcity-derived value gave ideas and academic credentials their feeling of worth; not everybody had them.  This kind of thinking is of course still with us, and I hear it expressed whenever a student expresses worry that someone might “steal”  his or her ” idea.”

Lankshear and Knobel quote Barlow’s perspicacious claim that “dispersion . . . has the value and [information’s] not a commodity, it’s a relationship and as in any relationship, the more that’s going back and forth the higher the value of the relationship” (11).

Perhaps this point isn’t so different from being, in the years before before GPS, lost with someone who checked a paper map versus being in the same situation with someone who was happy to ask for directions.  Is it worth starting a face-to-face relationship with someone when what you want is a bit of information? (Yes, this opens a fertile line of gender-based inquiry generally absent from the more accessible layers of the theory Lankshear and Knobel cite).

Barlow’s  idea, that information is conceptualized differently by practitioners of differing literacies, helps me to infer a possible difference between my own approach to the web and that of someone like Violetta.  Let me illustrate the point with a problem that came up during a recent period of multi-tasking heavily weighted toward my current academic commitments.

A few days ago, I encountered a problem using a forum a professor had set up using SFSU’s ilearn for a class.  I’d asked my professor to modify the default settings for the forum.  One of the side effects had been that all of the group members ended up locked out from posting to the forum.  Before alerting my instructor to the problem, I tried to query ilearn’s online help several times, and quickly came up against an electronic brick wall, a invitation to search that kept resulting in:  “There are currently no QuickGuides in the system that match your search criteria. Please try again.”

Reflecting on the matter now with Barlow’s statement in mind, I realize that I tried to solve the ilearn problem from a scarcity-model informational standpoint; the smart money would have been to solve it relationally, to find someone who could help me step by step through the situation, perhaps through the obviously displayed email or chat support options.  Seeking that kind of help isn’t as comfortably in my playbook.   Looking back, I realize I  also have a few people in my networks (both professional and social) with whom I might have interacted in order to solve my problem.

Why didn’t I?  I bet that, in terms of digital  literacy, I am several, even 10s of thousand of hours short of Violetta’s time online.  If indeed, as Walter Ong famously wrote, “Writing is a Technology that Restructures Thought,” Violetta and I may very well negotiate such problems differently.   I bet she would have gotten the results, and probably through a more social source than the help files I looked at, which are simply digital analogues of mundane owner’s manuals — a typographic solution.  A digital insider might ask: why open the manual when you can instant message an expert?  Perhaps Violetta might have started by asking that “cool guy Matt” she was already chatting with, and he might have had the answer.

I think that we might be in the midst of a social change that dethrones, or destabilizes, our traditional view of a narrowly defined executive function as the preeminent organizational skill.  It may be that this concept was formulated in an era of, or under the influence of values generated by, typographic literacy.  Perhaps collaborative function, an ability to effectively access collective sources of knowledge, is a more apt descriptor of the underlying capability for problem solving in the digital era.

Where is the collaboration in this executive function model?

Lankshear and Knobel note how wikipedia, for example, “leverages collective intelligence for knowledge production in the public domain.”  The literature on digital literacy that has come across my workspaces of late suggests that some kind of collaborative function will increasingly trump the sort of executive function that typically is associated with students’ ability to focus.  If we fail to recognize this, we not only impair our own digital literacy, and misunderstand the classroom presence of our students, but also, even while using digital and new media, stage our attempts at problem-solving with a scarcity-based model of information lurking in the wings.

Given the frequency with which New Media theorists invoke Jameson, Derrida, and other postmodern luminaries, it has become difficult to disassociate digital textuality from postmodernity itself.  Lankshear and Knobel note that the 2.0 digital mindset may be seen “as an aspect of the postmodern spirit.”  In “Blinded by the Letter:  Why Are We Using Literacy as a Metaphor for Everything Else?” Anne Frances Wysocki and Johndan Johnson-Eilola contrast, in a line of inquiry somewhat parallel to the scarcity/dispersion dichotomy, the private linearity of printed consciousness and the spatialized intertextuality of digital thinking.

Perhaps the world where the full implications of “an unseen network of reference” that is “visible, navigable, writable and readable, on our computer screens” is also the world of collaborative function, where users not only see/access links between texts, but are much more free to see/access the social relationships based upon textual exchange, the affective and informational networks through which texts, reified artifacts, useless in themselves, are transmitted and granted meaning.

In my youth, fan-generated responses to Star Wars often looked more like this.

Where Violetta and I may well overlap, in terms of our digital-literary consciousness, though, would be in our appreciation of fan-generated media.  Consider this fan-generated video of a Star Wars space battle, which reveals  the fervor and technical prowess of the normally faceless imperial pilots that form part of the menacing backdrop  of the films.

Sleigh Bells

Although my information-seeking instincts may be still been conditioned by a youth of scarcity-consciousness, at least I’ve come this far – I can admire fan-fictive remixing, and don’t want to see either Lucasfilm (or Sleigh Bells, which someone other than the fan-author added to the vid as a righteous musical backdrop)  pull down the video by flexing their scarcity-derived intellectual property rights.  I’d go further, and assert this fan-creator’s right to draw upon these sources to make new texts.  Many of you are probably already familiar with Larry Lessig’s TED talk on Read/Write culture, so I won’t belabor the matter.

One last takeaway from Violetta’s statement, I think, is that we don’t want, by studying digital and new medial literacies, to fetishize their demonstration.  Users like Violetta are aware that their practices are the subject of academic/pedagogical inquiry and appropriation.  They may know all too well that scholars like Lankeshear and Knobel dedicate works like “Sample ‘The New’ in New Literacies” to “the young (and not so young) digital insiders who inspire people like us.”   In that spirit, let’s make sure we do our best, then, to listen to what student-users have to teach us about working collaboratively with new media.

Taking advantage of tools and bewaring of false promises

In “Blinded by the Letter Why Are We Using Literacy as a Metaphor for Everything Else!” Anne Frances Wysocki and Johndan Johnson-Eilola address two myths that are associated with discussions of “literacy,” one, that literacy is always a tool of liberation for oppressed peoples, and two, that literacy will improve an individual’s sense of self and moral character. I have often had a bad taste in my mouth when reading academic discussions of literacy in the sense that academic efforts to offer literacy to oppressed peoples are like wealthy philanthropy—rich people donate money because it makes them feel good, but more often than not, not because it will really create substantial change. I’m not saying that efforts to share literacies are not worthwhile and effective, but I don’t think teaching someone to read and write is the panacea that will dissolve class inequity. Literacy is just a piece of the puzzle. The Wysocki and Johnson-Eiolola article was refreshing to me. This quote from Ruth Finnegan words it well, “So, when people might want, for example, houses or jobs or economic reform, they arc instead given literacy programs. (41)” 

The second myth taken up by Wysocki and Johnson-Eilola is that the book, and the book alone, offers people the necessary self-reflection to become more self realized and moral individuals. A book or literacy for that matter does not by default make you a moral person. I hear this in the tone of people’s voices when they react to discovering that another individual has never read a book or only plays video games. Yes, reading does open you up to considering moral ideas, but it does not inherently make you moral. The cultural expectation to read can be oppressive. This Portlandia sketch sums up this myth pretty well to me.

Wysocki and Johnson-Eilola continue their argument by applying their discussion of literacy myths to computers, urging readers to consider the use of the term “literacy” when applying it to computers—for fear that we might apply the same assumptions and myths to computer literacy. Efforts by the Clinton administration to put a computer in every classroom seem to be tangential to this idea of applying the same myths of literacy to computers. Computers in every classroom did not save students, but I’m sure it didn’t hurt them either.  

The second assumed promise of literacy that the authors warn us to consider carefully is this idea of improving the self, the bildungsroman of literacy. A bildungsroman is a literary term for a coming of age story. Computers are very much tied to self-improvement and authoritative self-identity. We can see these myths embodied in rags to riches stories like that of Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and Bill Gates, all wunderkinds whose abilities and destinies were unleashed because of computers.

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We cannot assume that people are missing out on the good life if they don’t know how to work an iPod.

But to completely dismiss computers and computer literacy because it brings along some myths of overzealous promise is unwise.

Computers can be powerful tools for discovering identities and understanding how power is negotiated. InColin Lankshear and Michele Knobel’s article, “’New’ Literacies: Research and Social Practice,” the authors analyze “‘new’ literacies” (which at the time of the article’s publication are new but today are more broadly accepted as commonplace)

in the form of blogs, online fan fiction and “synchronous online communities (this appears to be a precursor to things like World of Warcraft).

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It took me awhile to wrap my head around the idea that each online community represents a separate discourse community, thereby offering an individual the ability to become literate within that discourse community.

Each community: fan fiction fans, synchronous online community members, and bloggers, all three of these discourses offered community members avenues for re-imagining their identities and expressing themselves in ways that conventional media and reading and writing outlets had not.

Lankshear and Knobel classify communication through fan fiction and online synchronous communities as “relationship technology” rather than “information technology” (while blogs seem to stand in both categories), and they argue that awareness of these literacies can be applied in the classroom. I would rephrase this suggestion as “know your population. ”

Framing curriculum in formats that are personally compelling for students is beneficial in terms of engagement for the students. Students can have “authority” over their school assignments in ways that traditional research papers may not allow, capitalizing on the “relationship technology” that youth are so adept at navigating.

An article in A New Literacies Sampler continues along similar lines as Lankshear and Knobel. In “Popular Websites in Adolescents’ Out-of-School Lives: Critical Lessons on Literacy” by Jennifer Stone, Stone explores how popular websites used by teenagers support literacy practices encouraged in schools (a la Robert Brooke’s “Underlife and Writing Instruction” wherein the transgressive activities of students in class actually reinforce classroom goals). In Stone’s research she observes youth using the rhetorical skills that complement classroom practices. Stone suggests that schools can help students to “begin addressing the convergence of genres, modalities, and inter-textuality to promote consumption” (61) that is inherent in many popular websites.

In conclusion, it may be beneficial to use technological literacy in the classroom as a tool for empowerment and self-realization, but it is necessary not to overstate what our claim of “literacy” offers students. We are offering them tools, but we are not necessarily offering liberation or morality. It is also important to note that the tools benefit not just the students, but also, us, as teachers in our ability to engage our students.

Why Composition (and Digital Media)?

Alex Reid, author of The Two Virtuals (a chapter of which we discussed in class a couple of weeks ago), has a recent post on his blog about “what composition is for and why digital media is integral to it.” This post seemed to speak directly to some issues that our class has been circling around now for a few weeks: namely, what is the point of introducing digital media into a composition course?

Reid’s answer? We do it to leverage the writing (some) students are already doing:

What we can know with a higher degree of certainty is that [students] will write for online spaces. Of course this writing is often very, very short and highly informal. But it is the one writing practice they actually elect to pursue. My suggestion is that by incorporating digital composition into FYC we can make connections between their current elective writing practices and other writing practices that they might choose to adopt.

Perhaps the line between what students “elect to pursue” and school writing isn’t so easy to draw, but I thought that distinction resonated with the themes of motivation, discipline, and (dare I say it?) desire that came up in our latest class discussion. Some of us seemed to feel that moving toward new literacies in FYC is an important end in itself (as Cynthia Selfe argues in Writing New Media), while others seemed to agree with Mark Bauerlein that doing so (or doing too much of it) might lead to a loss of “slow, linear thinking.”

What I see Reid suggesting is that it doesn’t have to be one or the other. New literacies and “old” literacies aren’t (necessarily) mutually exclusive, any more than learning another language reduces your ability to speak your native tongue. Perhaps increased attention to — and practice of — any literate practices can have positive and lasting effects. The challenge composition instructors face, though, is helping students negotiate the sometimes murky waters between what Lankshear and Knobel present as two different “mindsets.”

Video Games as an Enabler of New Literacies?

I’ve been contemplating for a while about what to write in this blog post, because I’ve been faced with a bit of a problem: in the article that I read for this week, James Paul Gee’s “Pleasure, Learning, Video Games, and Life: The Projective Stance“, Gee doesn’t seem to be talking about literacy at all, and Certainly not literacy as defined by Lankshear and Knobel in their plenary address. Their revised definition in “Sampling ‘the New’ in New Literacies” fits a bit better, but literacies as “socially recognized ways of generating, communicating, and negotiating meaningful content through the medium of encoded texts within contexts of participation in Discourses (or, as members of Discourses)” seems so nebulous and hedged as to include almost anything within its purview (4). Even working from that definition (which uses Gee’s own research in discourse theory), I have trouble finding anything that remotely relates to what I would normally think of as literacy in Gee’s chapter. The closest he gets is discussing the sporadic text that happens in between all the action in video games. That isn’t literacy, that is just playing around, right? Continue reading

New Literacies: What are They and What Does This Mean for Writing?

What are new literacies? How do new literacies differ from old ones? How does this affect how we write and how we teach writing? To address these questions, I will examine three articles: “‘New’ Literacies: Research and Social Practice” by Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel, “Sampling ‘the New’ in New Literacies” by the same authors from the New Literacies Sampler, and “Looking from the Inside Out: Academic Blogging as New Literacy” by Julia Davies and Guy Merchant, also from the New Literacies Sampler.

First of all, there has been a massive proliferation of kinds of texts and textual spaces. Usually the term “new literacy” is associated with recent computing and communications technology; however, new literacy is not limited to new technology. Technological forms of new literacy, as listed by Lankshear and Knobel, include: blogs, webpages, synchronous forms of communication (chat and instant messaging), asynchronous forms (email and discussion boards), and digital multimedia forms. Other types of new literacy are: zines, fan fiction, critical literacy, memes, scenario planning (business applications, for example), and adbusting. It is important for writing teachers to acknowledge the fact that students are reading more and producing more writing, in different styles, tones, and registers and for a wider range of purposes, than ever before. Rather than dismissing texting or fanfiction as inapplicable to academic writing, teachers should show students how to translate skills they already have, for example narrative and persuasive abilities (what I did today and why we should go see this movie), into a different kind of writing. However, writing itself is changing in response to new literacies.

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Confessions of a FanFic Writer, D&D Player

I am thinking of Andrea Lunsford’s guest lecture on performative text as I try to tie together some ideas that have come up after reading “New Literacies: Research and Social Practice,” (Lankshear & Knobel’s plenary address) and Jessica Hammer’s “Agency and Authority in Role Playing Texts” (New Literacies Sampler, Knobel & Lankshear, eds).

Like many children, when my friends and I were young, we entertained each other by writing stories set in the worlds of other texts, especially Star Wars, inserting each other as characters. I didn’t realize there was a term for these texts we created: fan fiction or fanfic. We spent recess at school acting out Star Wars-based stories we made up spontaneously, complete with sound effects. This too was fanfic—the multiplayer kind. As teenagers, we became serious D&D players, often playing all-night, sometimes making up our own rules, donning costumes, and running around in the woods while in character. Hammer would say we had the psychological agency (the sense that we were empowered) and cultural agency (the power recognized by others, namely our group) to exercise agency over the text (the D&D world) and the narrative (the scenario in which we played). Strangely, I was a reluctant writer of school papers, though out of school I wrote constantly in the service of my favorite texts (Star Wars and D&D).

In their plenary address, L&K discuss the growing recognition of preteen fanfic authors within the fanfic community and decry the lack of investigation of fanfic writing in the primary classroom because “it is rarely considered in terms of intertextuality, ‘media mixing’ and the like, notwithstanding the importance attached to such literary techniques within high school English classes in relation to ‘the canon.’” Consider this in light of Lunsford’s comments about the power that composition in any media can have when it is inspired. The subjects in the Stanford Literacy Study did not ask for permission to compose. They used composition outside of the class because they wished to. They exercised authority, borrowed images for flyers, integrated their words into the poem of another, and made professional-grade, multi-media learning tools.

If we accept as fact that the more literary events you engage in, the more literate you become, then isn’t it strange that we limit the variety of literary events valued in school? What if all acts of composition were at least encouraged and acknowledged? Think of the effect it might have on a student’s sense of agency and authority, as well as supporting the development of an understanding of one’s own idealogical situatedness as a writer and a reader, and general textual saavy.