Sunday, March 10, 2013

Week 9: Transliteracy

The ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks.”

The word “transliteracy” is derived from the verb “to transliterate,” meaning to write or print a letter or word using the closest corresponding letters of a different alphabet or language. 

The idea of transliteracy is really about promoting a unifying ecology. As Thomas explains, 
“The concept of transliteracy calls for a change of perspective away from the battles over print versus digital, and a move instead towards a unifying ecology not just of media, but of all literacies relevant to reading, writing, interaction and culture, both past and present.
 It is an opportunity to cross some hitherto quite difficult divides.” 
Transliteracy asks key questions about communication:
  1. How were people remembering and communicating for the thousands of years before writing?
  2. Where are the similarities with the way we communicate today?
  3. Has our addiction to print made us forget skills we had before?
  4. Can digital media reconnect us with those skills again?

Watch “Social Media Revolution” on YouTube:  

Literacy is not linear. ““Part of the confusion about media convergence stems from the fact that when people talk about it, they’re actually describing at least five processes” (Henry Jenkins, 2001). 
  • technological
  • economic
  • social or organic
  • cultural
  • global

Another term which has become widely used about these kinds of experiences, especially by the media and gaming worlds, is “convergence.” In 2001 when Henry Jenkins noted the confusion about media convergence actually is because of the various processes that are at play (it is not one single required literacy). For Jenkins, “these multiple forms of media convergence are leading us toward a digital renaissance - a period of transition and transformation that will affect all aspects of our lives” (Jenkins, 2001). 
Sue Thomas often refers to the Asheninka tribe as an example of a transliterate group. For them transliteracy imbues every aspect of their culture:
“Everything we use has a story. Each drawing which is passed from one generation to another is our writing; each little symbol has an immense story. As one learns a drawing, one learns its origin, who taught it, who brought it to us.”

Discussion Questions:

Q1. What is transliteracy? Give examples of how transliteracy appears in your daily life.

Q2. How does Coover’s “The End of Books” (originally written in 1992) align with a contemporary thinking of transliteracy and the development of the web into web 2.0?

Q3. According to Aarseth’s “Nonlinearity and Literary Theory,” “the text...entails a set of powerful metaphysics...the three most important ones are those of reading, writing and stability” (763).  Having read about and discussed the idea of transliteracy, would you suggest adding or changing any of the three elements that Aarseth notes as most important? Must “users” (readers) “learn to accept their position as agents of the text” or might they play a more decisive role (as in Andy Campbell’s works)?


  1. Q1. What is transliteracy and give examples of it in your daily life.

    Transliteracy requires the flexibility to communicate across an increasing number of different methods – traditional and electronic mediums. I am not fluent in multiple languages, but I feel it would be similar to the ease with which people can flow between multiple languages when communicating. You have a language mastered when there is no more conscious translation required -- you just start to think in that other language. That is where true transliteracy comes in while -- moving across the variety of methods without much conscious thought. I liked the analogy in Transliteracy: Crossing Divides to traveling in places where we experience different cultural practices –it can be stressful and requires constant adjustment and it can be initially a little bit awkward – but that as we become adjusted to the culture we feel satisfaction. I can relate to this travel concept when I consider my journey through this course and my trepidation with the technology side of it. When I first started with Twitter I told my MACT cohort friends – please tell me if I’m being a Twitter nerd I need to assimilate! This course I have played with new tools like GarageBand and SoundCloud and have learned to further finesse my blog posts so as my son would say “I’m not being a poser”. I am not scared to push buttons in the blog like I once was – the post I did for Assignment 2, embedding pins and html code – heh I felt like Rocky Balboa running up the famous Philadelphia Museum stairs when it worked! With each platform I join and experience I gain increased confidence.

    So, how did transliteracy appear in my life today:
    -Facilitated 3 class room lectures using oral presentation skills and computer labs for electronic writing assignments
    -Did one on one Role Plays in Sales class with students in preparation for filming them doing so next week!
    -Blogged on my personal blog so I could trial run embedding Pintrest (looked at YouTube and Blogger advice first)
    -Tweeted for help on the class blog (to Sylvia – thanks buddy!)
    -Received a job opportunity for students in Radio Promotion through LinkedIn from a professional connection and sent it out to students fitting the criteria wanted.
    -Placed and received phone calls from a land line and smart phone and of course lots of texts and
    -Emails galore
    -Skype call from my son currently travelling in Bali

  2. Q3.
    Aarseth’s list includes reading, writing and stability. I would add both *seeing* and *hearing* to this list especially after *reading* some of Andy Campbell’s portfolio on (Diary of Anne Sykes, The Flat, The Rut, and Last Dream). The whole experience is both aural and visual which influences the viewer’s emotional connection with the text. The stability aspect is an interesting one as well, I am not a programmer, but obviously there is stability provided in the Diary of Anne Sykes in the form of its base program. I have the impression that I have some control in being able to make some choices with the text (moving the dice, zooming, rotating texting, and advancing the text) the experience appears very non-linear, but there is a program this text has been mapped with. Aarseth says stability means the text has a beginning, middle and an end that can’t change “although its interpretations might”. I agree with this to an extent because, sometimes when I choose to end the text I am not sure if that is when the author’s intended ending was supposed to occur. Did I miss something? Did I not press a link that would have made some logical end point? For me it seems that Andy Campbell’s work --- for example – “The Flat” lays down context which then invites the viewer/reader to individually interpret the story, this is intriguing to me as no two people will have the same field of reference. In this text, I am knocking on the door of his grandfather’s old brick house but I am not able to go inside— the author explains it was one of the last dreams his now dead, blind grandfather asked him to write down for him. His Grandfather didn’t know what it meant but he felt it had to do with the lights. This is as much the viewer’s story as it is the authors. I hope that makes sense. I am admittedly not well read in the digital literary genre it is very much like art and fine wine appreciation – the more you experience it the more you appreciate it. I enjoy the mutual effort required by author and viewer.

    1. Sorry, the story I described about the dream is not called "The Flat" -- but rather "Last Dream"

  3. Q2. How does The End of Books align with a contemporary thinking of transliteracy and the development of the web into web 2.0?

    The End of Books was written in 1992 and Coover was recognizing that new “hypertext fiction” required that we change our reading habits and learn how to create new narratives using this format (p. 707). This is the essence of transliteracy; the idea of becoming fluent in many different mediums for communication.

    Coover admitted to being reluctant to use the new medium but felt he needed to learn more so he teaches “notoriously conservative writing students” in a workshop setting. Reading his experience caused me to consider the increased collaboration options that digital offers as an advantage over print technology. Coover describes how his students were sharing work with each other not only in their face-to-face workshops but also “continuously online” describing it as fun and a “downright celebratory” experience (more creative than typical (non-hypertext) undergraduate writing workshops). He also talks about an early group fiction space called the Hotel offering a space for many to collaborate on a story. He is writing these experiences well before Web 2.0 platforms made collaboration as easy as it is today. These earlier experiences demonstrate there was an appetite for the increased functionality of web 2.0 to share and collaborate.

  4. What is transliteracy? The authors of "Transliteracy: Crossing Divides", provides a comprehensive definition that I agree with. I initially thought that transliteracy was a simple extension of "literacy"; expanding reading and writing to include a variety of digital competencies. I had further categorized transliteracy as tools that were only used academically, or when communicating electronically. The impact of transliteracy in my life has had further reaching effects than I was aware of. The authors stated in the Preface, "We live in a world of multiple literacies, multiple media and multiple demands on our attention. Each of these complete in itself yet we do not experience them individually, we synthesize and mold them to our needs.". The cultural phenomenon of transliteracy is what really had me stop and take notice. Transliteracy has shaped my behavior over the last twenty years. Definitely daily communications affected by newer technologies have played a significant role. The changing practice of communicating face to face to communicating through devices have impacted relationships. In answering this seed question I laughed about the last argument I had with my significant other, which was ALL done via text! I also looked at the opportunity to study using an online learning environment, and the opportunities and challenges that arise without a classroom environment. I recognize the increase in processing information, and decompressing from outside stimuli as a result of constantly being "plugged-in". It makes me far more tired than when I take opportunities (like vacations) to remove myself from this stimuli. I read, (actually skim versus absorb) far more on line, based on content that has far less relevance. And I couldn't really tell you when I last attempted to learn to spell a word I didn't know thanks to spell check. The culture of parenting has certainly changed. I sometimes truly miss sharing simple things with my daughters that I grew up with like bedtime stories, not bedtime movies, and face time to talk about our day, not face time shared with another Blackberry user in another location. My mother's voice used to bellow through the house when she called for us, I now just call my daughter on her phone to come downstairs. As we become rapidly accustom to transliteracy through learning and socializing, I'm not sure it will allow us an "opportunity to cross some hitherto quite difficult divides." as Thomas states. It may in fact become the chasm.

  5. Hi Gail, I could relate to your post – I read myself into your transliteracy reflection. After going through the MACT program, I believe I may even be able to make more of claim to transliteracy than my kids – imagine! I use my phone at home the same way you do – I never considered it as benefit in that it saves us from bellowing down to the basement – ha ha – but interesting that we just know that they will have that phone with them. This summer I read the book by MIT professor, author and mother Sherry Turkle, Alone Together Why We Expect More From Technology and Less from Each Other, I had seen Turkle as a key note speaker at a conference I was at and her key message really resonated with me. I would recommend her TedTalk when you have time
    ( She is essentially advocating balance with our technology, and reinforcing the need for the face time that you describe with your children. It concerns me that people use technology to avoid actual human contact. I am guilty myself. Published research has found that college students today have much less empathy than they did 30 years ago ( can we attribute to the technology use? Or to quote Lady Gaga are some just born that way? Transliteracy also requires face-to-face communication skills, even a Skype call is different than actually being in the room with someone. It’s all so interesting isn’t it?