I’ve seen the word literacy before. I’ve seen the word in many iterations before: digital literacy, computer literacy, illiteracy, etc. but where do these words come from? Lankshear and Knobel explore this question in the first chapter of their text: New Literacies, Everyday Practices and Social Learning.
This chapter was particularly interesting to me being that I grew up in a foreign country, took all my elementary and high school classes in French (with the exception English class) and don’t have any formal schooling in the field of education. I have been exposed to literacy at its base level of being able to read and write properly. As “new literacies” appeared I simply applied this concept to them; being computer literate meant that you could use a computer, being socially literate meant that you could carry a conversation with someone. Reading through this chapter opened my eyes to a different form of literacy. One that examines more than just words, but more of a deeper understanding of language and culture.
The socioeconomic aspect of literacy piqued my interest. Lankshear and Knobel’s statement that “Claims for associations between high literacy and better health outcomes” (p. 9) prompted me to do some research on literacy and breastfeeding rates. According to Heymann, Raub & Earle (2013):
If substantial public health information on breastfeeding is provided in written form, literate women will have greater access to information the benefits of breastfeeding. If advertising for formula is conducted in written form, then higher literacy rates may be associated with greater exposure to marketing an lower rates of breastfeeding. (p.400)
Being an educated, literate woman, I did my research on breastfeeding versus formula feeding while I was pregnant. There was overwhelming evidence that breastfeeding was best for infants, and the added benefit of it costing little to no money confirmed my decision to breastfeed my child. I was surprised to learn that marketing to literate women can have an impact on such an important decision.
I was also introduced in detail to the difference between Discourses (with a capital D) and discourse (p. 13). Discourses seem like they will play an important role in the creation and analysis of digital storytelling.
Lankshear and Knobel end the chapter talking about “New Literacies”. Not new as in different original types of literacies, but “a new approach to thinking about literacy as a social phenomenon” (p.27). The word literacy has very much exploded in the past couple of decades, with journal names being changed, and it being applied to concepts other than language. I’m excited to learn more about New Literacies and how I can apply what I’m learning to digital storytelling.
Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (2011). New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Social Learning. New York: Open University Press.
Heymann, Jody, Raub, Amy, & Earle, Alison. (2013). Breastfeeding policy: a globally comparative analysis. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 91(6), 398-406. Retrieved June 10, 2015, from http://www.scielosp.org/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S0042-96862013000600007&lng=en&tlng=en. 10.2471/BLT.12.109363.
Disclaimer: I feel the need to say that I have no issues with women who choose to formula feed their babies.