Revolution Lullabye

January 29, 2013

Buckingham, Digital Media Literacies

Buckingham, David. “Digital Media Literacies: Rethinking Media Education in the Age of the Internet.” Research in Comparative and International Education 2.1 (2007): 43-55.

Buckingham, a well-known media education scholar from the UK, argues that the notion of media literacy must be extended beyond a the idea of a functional skill set based on search and evaluation techniques and instead, move towards critical understanding of how information online is authored, produced, and circulated amid social and ideological forces. 

In order to help media educators build students’ critical understanding of digital literacy, Buckingham offers his own framework (2003) of key concepts through which to analyze digital media: representation, language, production, and audience.  He argues that this framework resists the reductive checklists that are given to students to analyze and evaulate the internet and digital media.  These checklists, Buckingham contends, assume that there is some sort of objective truth that can be found in digital media – that the Internet is a neutral tool.  Instead, Buckingham argues, educators need to teach students how digial media (like all forms of rhetoric) is inherently biased and socially and culturally situated.  He points out that the Internet is more shaped by commerical interests than other forms of media.

Buckingham also argues that in order to truly build complex, critical digital literacy, students must not only consume (or read) media, but also produce (write) it. Production, he claims, gives students a deeper understanding of how digital media is built and functions.

Finally, Buckingham complicates the definition of access to include not just physical access to digital technology (computers, software, space), but also certain cultural and social competencies and awareness of digital media.  For example, he argues that even in technologically-rich cultures (like the US and UK), boys and white children have more access and greater compentencies online than girls and minorities.

Notable Notes

His framework (page 48-49)

  • representation – media don’t report, they represent reality.  What is represented? What is not?
  • language – how sites are designed, constructed, and how they function rhetorically (for example, the rhetorical function of hyperlinks)
  • production – who/why are sites produced for? who (or what institutions) affect and shape the information and what you see? impact of commercialization
  • audience – how to readers access sites? who are sites targeted to? how is this interactive online?

has literacy been reduced to a set of skills? Is the term meaningless when juxtaposed with so many other words? (43-44)

differences between functional and critical literacy (44)

the internet is not just an educational tool; how is it really used and consumed by people? how can we draw on that understanding, these grounded behaviors? (45)

functional digital literacy skills quickly become obsolete (like checklists) (46) – we’re looking to build lasting habits of mind

focus of Internet literacy is often safety (esp for children) – European Commission’s “Safer Internet Action Plan” (46)

Buckingham sees digital literacy as an extension of media literacy, media education

create a heuristic?

sources: Bettina Fabos (2004); Ellen Seiter (2005); Nicholas Burbules and Thomas Callister (2000) (they argue that users need to understand how the Web functions as a system)

Internet’s architecture shaped by “commercial, governmental, and military interests” (from Fabos) (47). – connection to who has power, agency, a voice online

replace the focus on locating/evaluating/producing information – broaden that to understanding digital media as “a cultural form” (45)

what we want users to behave like vs. how they actually behave online (45)

Quotable Quotes

“Rather than simply adding media or digital literacy to the curriculum menu, or hiving off ‘information and communication technology’ into a separate subject, we need a much broader reconceptualisation of what we mean by literacy in a world that is increasingly dominated by electronic media. This is not by any means to suggest that verbal literacy is no longer relevant, or that books should be discarded.  However, it is to imply that the curriculum can no longer be confined to a narrow conception of literacy that is defined solely in terms of the medium of print” (53).

“Most uses of computers in schools signally fail to engage with the complex technological and media-saturated environment in which children are now growing up. For the most part, they are narrowly defined, mechanical, and unimaginative. The answer to this problem is not to import ever more fashionable or ‘child-friendly’ devices, or to sugar the pill of learning with a superficial dose of digital entertainment. Digital media literacy represents a more rigorous – but also more enjoyable and motivating – way of addressing the educational challenges of the digital age” (53).

Access needs to be seen not merely in terms of access to technology or to technical skills, but also to cultural forms of expression and communication, and it needs to be acknowledged that students’ access to (and familiarity with) those cultural forms is itself likely to be quite variable” (52).

“In the context of media education, the aim is not primarily to develop technical skills, or to promote ‘self-expression,’ but to encourage a more systematic understanding of how media operate, and hence to promote more reflective ways of using them” (50).

“Media literacy involves ‘writing’ the media as well as ‘reading’ them” (49).

“Nevertheless, it should be apparent that approaching digital media through media education is about much more than simply ‘accessing’ these media, or using them as tools for learning: on the contrary, it means developing a much broader critical understanding, which addresses the textual characteristics of media alongside their social, economic, and cultural implications” (48-49).

“Digital literacy also involves a broader awareness of the global role of advertising, promotion, and sponsorship, and how they influence the nature of information that is available in the first place” (48)…..”growing importance of commercial influences – particularly as these are often invisible to the user” (48).

“Digital literacy must therefore involve a systematic awareness of how digital media are constructed [designed/produced], and of the unique ‘rhetorics’ of interactive communication” (48). – rhetorical function of links

Critical information literacy: “This means asking questions about the sources of that information, the interests of its producers, and the ways in which it represents the world, and understanding how technological developments and possibilities are related to broader social and economic forces” (46).

“Literacy education cannot be confined simply to the acquisition of skills, or the mastery of particular practices; it also must entail a form of ‘critical framing’ that enables the learner to take a theoretical distance from what they have learned, to account for its social and cultural location, and to critique and extend it” (45) draws on Cope & Kalantzis, 2000

Literacy education “entails the acquisition of meta-language” (45)


March 31, 2009

McAllister and Selfe, Writing Program Administration and Instructional Computing

McAllister, Ken S. and Cynthia L. Selfe. “Writing Program Administration and Instructional Computing.” In The Writing Program Administrator’s Resource. Eds. Brown and Enos. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2002. 341-375.

McAllister and Selfe argue that the issues in instructional computing are intellectual as well as pragmatic, encompassing broader theoretical and pedagogical issues including rhetoric, social theory, social justice, education, and the social and literacy aspects of technology. WPAs, then, should see instructional computing as part of their intellectual administrative work. McAllister and Selfe identify five “moments” in which WPAs might work in expanding their program’s use of instructional technologies: focusing on programmatic and curricular goals (professional development and conversations about program objectives); focusing on issues of access (number of computers, availability of technical support, what those computers and classroom offer); focusing on issues of administration (scheduling, conducting assessments); focusing on issues of professional development and support (creative ways to give instuctors support the skills they need); and focusing on issues of funding (program and university-wide).

Notable Notes

best programs are started slowly and have wide, broad university support and funding (362)

programs need to train instructors who will be teaching computer-intensive classes (356)

do to issues of classroom and computer access, it’s best not to require large courses (university-wide 1st year comp) to have mandated computer-intensive assignments or requirements (355)

WPAs should start by assessing what their program already has, their needs and their goals

two questions to ask: “What are the instructional goals of the writing program? How can these goals be made to drive a computer-based program/course/activity/facility/decision?” and “Who is being served by these goals and the computer-based instruction that is derived from them? Who is not?” (345)

February 8, 2009

Moran, Technology and the Teaching of Writing

Moran, Charles. “Technology and the Teaching of Writing.” 203-223.

Computer-based technology is knit into the very nature of modern composition pedagogy. Four of the most prominent ones (and the ones most theorized and written about in the field) are word processing (which allow for easier revising and drafting but can mislead the student with auto-correct functions that do not take into account the writer’s context); e-mail (increases informal communication between student and instructor, for the good and the bad); online discussion forums (increased the amount of writing our students did and allowed for quiet students to voice their opinions, but can easily get out of hand, so it’s best to focus the discussion around a collaborative task), and the Internet (discussion and production of hypertexts, online research.) Those teaching with technologies must be aware that technologies don’t erase differences between students (English-centered Internet does not accurately reflect the diversity of society or the classroom) and must keep in mind issues of access (what students have access to use for assignments, both at home, in the workplace, and on campus.) Finally, it is essential that teachers using technology continually train themselves to keep updated about the latest applications to inform their teaching and help their students.

Quotable Quotes

Want students to become “reflective and critical users of emerging technologies” (220)

Notable Notes

Sources: Hawshier et al Computers and the Teaching of Writing in Higher Education; Palmquist Transitions: Teaching Writing in Computer-Supported and Traditional Classrooms; Computers and Composition journal

Language of email – discourse conventions: Hawshier, “The Rhetorics and Languages of Electronic Mail”; ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Exchange); English-only standards

women and men in online chat rooms

computer use among basic writers, women, race issues, ESL classrooms

January 19, 2009

George, “From Analysis to Design”

George, Diana. “From Analysis to Design: Visual Communication in the Teaching of Writing.” CCC 54.1 (Sept. 2002) 11 – 39.

George explores how the relationship between the visual and the verbal has been explored and defined through fifty years of composition history, arguing that the visual needs to be more fully incorporated in composition classrooms, not just as a prompt or an aid, but an intregal part of the design of an argument. She discusses three approaches composition teachers and scholars have taken with using visuals in the classroom: as essay prompts, objects for analysis, or as “dumbed-down” versions of more complex verbal arguments (32). Instead, taking the lead from the New London Group and scholars such as Wysocki and Trimbur, compositionists need to see the connection between writing and graphic design and embrace design as an important concept in the teaching of writing. Students interact with visual Web technologies on a daily basis, and in the work place, they will be asked to compose, design, and communicate both verbally and visually, and so our composition classrooms need to shift their notion of what constitutes an argument and teach students how to compose and design with and through visuals.

Quotable Quotes

“I am after a clearer understanding of what can happen when the visual is very consciously brought into the composition classroom as a form of communication worth both examining and producing” (14).

“It is important to point out that thinking of composition as design shifts attention, if onyl momentarily, from the product to the act of production” (18)

“The issue [of incorporating the visual in the composition classroom] seems to be less one of resources than one of emphasis, or, rather, relationship” (32).

“For students who have grown up in a technology-saturated and an image-rich culture, questions of communication and composition absolutely will include the visual, not as attendant to the verbal but as complex communication intricately related to the world around them” (32)

Notable Notes

good history of the role visuals played in the composition classroom, from the 1950s to the 1980s to today

Important references include Trimbur, Wysocki, New London Group, Johnson-Eilola, Faigley, Walter Benjamin, J. Anthony Blair.

requires a shift in the thinking of composition and argument beyond printed text – one of design, of broader communication.

what has the Web done to composition? will composition meet that challenge? will it morph? or is it a field designed to meet a specific need and purpose (Harvard, 1890s.)? is digital media destined to remain a subspeciality?


Wysocki. “Monitoring Order: Visual Desire, the Organization of Web Pages, and Teaching the Rules of Design.” Kairos 3.2 (Fall 1998)

Trimbur. “Delivering the Message: Typography and the Materiality of Writing.” Composition as Intellectual Work. Ed. Gary Olson. Carbondale: Southern Illinois UP, 2002. 188-202.

Kress, Gunther. “Design and Transformation: New Theories of Meaning.” Cope and Kalantzis. 153-161.

Bernhardt, Stephen. “Seeing the Text.” CCC (1986) 66-78.

January 5, 2009

Helfand, Six (+2) Essays on Design and New Media

Helfand, Jessica. Six (+2) Essays on Design and New Media. New York: William Drenttel, 1997.

Helfand’s essays, which all first appeared in Print and Eye Magazines, ask how our ideas are being shaped by new digital media and vice versa, how new digital media is shaping our ideas. She writes as a designer, calling in each of her essays (some more overtly than others) for her fellow designers, whose formal training probably did not address programming code or hypertext or moving visuals, to take up the challenges presented by the internet and digital new media and find appropriate, responsible design solutions instead of leaving the digital landscape open to chaotic, untrained interpretation. Her argument (which she admits is a bit elitist) takes her from an analysis of electronic typography to the relationship between information and form and from questions of access to a discussion of the physical, hardware and software constraints of digital design. Her first essay, “Design and the Play Instinct,” claims that responsible and thoughtful play is an essential component of the design process, and the computer has made play easier and more efficient because of the possibilities of erasing and reverting to previously-saved, “uncorrupted” drafts. She warns against designers relying on old design paradigms, such as those developed for the printed page, calling for designers to find ways to accurately present the overload of information and non-linear narratives found on the internet in ways that allow for clear communication without making complex concepts and relationships overly simplistic. The technology might limit the design, but the concepts a designer can communicate are not limited. The text is a little dated to the new media debates of the mid-1990s (lots of discussion of CD-ROMs.)

Quotable Quotes

Interaction design: “It demands, instead, more comprehensive thinking that involves cognitive, spatial, and ergonomic considerations” (59) Interface designers can’t just rely on traditional design training; they have to branch out and collaboarte with software engineers, psychologists, and other experts who can help them with the unique design challenges of new media.

Designers need new ways of “visualizing stories in multiple layers, for designing with mulitple points of entry” (60).

The problem with websites that “dutifully mimic the form and structure of a paper publication, which is its own restrictive model” (49). Instead, we need “more ambitious thinking, more inventive models, and, undoubtably, more inspired design than presently exists” (49).

“The internet is a dialectic hybrid: a utopian archetype at once pragmatic and mythical, borderless and structured, it is a potentially infinite space with no geographical, political, or otherwise material boundaries” (47).

“Texture is complexity made physically manifest” (22).

“As information overload tips the scales, the demand for editorial and design direction will become more and more critical” (45).

“Thoughtless computer-aided (or driven) design maximizes shortcuts. It delights in gimmickry and exploits for effect. Here, in the land of the gratuitous filter, it is a celebration of bells and whistles, uninspired form and negligble content…This is the play instinct gone awry – devoid of imagination, brain-free, giving way to the loathsome gravitational pull of mediocrity” (10).

Notable Notes

Essay Titles:
1: “Design and the Play Instinct” – play is essential to the design process. Computer and technology facilitate it (and allow it to happen.)
2: “Electronic Typography” – typography is now asked to represent spoken, time-sensitive word, can disapper and appear in the 4th dimension, need for visual literacy to develop, emails are constrained but serve all purposes.
3. “The Pleasure of the Text(ure)” – digital new media is often pushed into linear forms when that doesn’t make particular sense because it gets rid of the texture. CD-ROMs discussion.
4. “The Culture of Reciprocity” – access to new media is limited around the world, how educational institutions are teaching and using new media, new media is formed by and for those who participate in it.
5. “A New Webbed Utopia” – the internet is controlled by its constraints: html code, upload times, ambiguous target audience
6. “The Lost Legacy of Film” – new media designers should look to film designers to help unlock the power and potential of narrative and drama. New media has more choice and participation; the audience become the authors.
+1. “I Design, Therefore I Am” – avatars as identity, one that can be manipulated and edited constantly.
+2. “The Myth of Real Time” – our world has equated real with efficient, and the potential of leisure time as productive time is ignored. Also, digital media seems by its very nature ephemeral, not as a comglomerate of building layers over history.

blue underlined hyperlink developed by U of Illinois for their Mosaic project – now ubiquitous in website design (49)

information highway should be reconceived as an information landscape – by MIT research team

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