Discussion Group

Co-organisers: Julia Gillen, Celia Moreno Morilla (until end Nov. 2018)

Unless stated otherwise below, meetings are held most Tuesdays during term time, 1.00 – 2.00 pm.

Literacy Research Discussion Group Programme

Michaelmas Term 2018 

Date & Location Speaker(s) & Affiliation  Title and Abstract
Tuesday, 9 October

B59, County South

1-2pm

Ibrar Bhatt and Alison MacKenzie Queen’s University, Belfast Just Google it: digital literacy and the epistemology of ignorance

This paper examines digital literacy and how it relates to the philosophical study of ignorance. Ignorance of how digital technologies work (e.g. how users’ online activities can be used to the advantage of platform owners without the users’ knowledge, and how browsing can be confined) is still not well understood from the perspective of user practice. Building on work in Literacy Studies which has often examined ‘knowledge production’, we argue that a social practice approach to digital literacy can also help examine how epistemologies of ignorance may be produced, reproduced and sustained. Using data from a study which set out to explore the knowledge producing work of undergraduate students through interviews and recorded observations of assignment writing, we argue that particular digital literacy practices pave the way for the construction of certain forms of ignorance, and that this kind of Literacy inquiry is a vital step in better understanding the implications of online practices.

16 October

B59, County South

1-2pm

Robert Crawshaw

Lancaster University

Practising Cultural Literacy in Uncertain Times

 

What is ‘Cultural Literacy’?  The phrase was formulated by Eric (E.D.) Hirsch in 1988 in terms which have been largely discredited for their prescriptive, content-led, nationalistic implications.  Nevertheless, within Western Europe and the UK in particular at the present time, the status of knowledge and the form it takes for different sectors of modern society remain burning issues.  Nation states have become more defensive of their identities.  Against a background of increased social diversity, assertion of the right to choose, forced migration, religious conflict, fear, and political division, culture has been promoted as a vehicle for national economic growth.  At the same time, the role of the arts in state education has been marginalised, giving rise to initiatives designed to investigate cultural value from a simultaneously ‘intrinsic’ and ‘instrumental’ point of view, that is in terms of culture’s capacity to generate tangible social and economic benefits for communities as well as for individuals’ well-being.
At a time when teleological solutions to social problems are viewed with the gravest suspicion by academics and non-academics alike, such developments leave unanswered the question of what ‘cultural literacy’ ought to consist of, including the states of knowledge and activities most likely to promote it.  The question has fundamental implications both for citizens in general and for those professionally responsible for researching the field.  This in an era dominated by the global hegemony of new technology which is changing the very notion of culture itself. The objective of this discussion will be to consider what these implications are with reference to two examples from the work of the Cultural Literacy and Creative Futures group of the programme Cultural Literacy in Europe (CLE).

23 October

C89, County South

1-2pm

Julia Gillen and members of the Literacy Research Centre Advice on getting your journal article published

Are you writing at PhD or MA level and keen to get perhaps your first journal article published? Or perhaps you’ve got some interesting experiences you would like to share? Whether you’d like to offer or receive advice or just listen, you are welcome to a session where members of the Literacy Research Centre who are established writers and editors will be happy to share their experiences.

6 November

C89, County South

1-2pm

Sebastian Muth, LAEL Literacy development and social control: Governing language learners at a Swiss health resort

Located in pristine surroundings, in a picturesque valley in the Swiss Alps, Heidiland is a medical resort and spa clinic that has catered to exclusive guests for over 150 years somewhere in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. It represents a sector of the Swiss healthcare industry that caters exclusively to wealthy local and foreign patients and that is highly dependent on non-skilled migrant workers predominantly from countries of the European Union. Because of their lack of German skills, the resort’s human resources department organizes compulsory language courses that are emblematic of the ways in which language, in this case, language education or training, is used to manage and profit from an increasingly diverse workforce. Based on ethnographic fieldwork in two German language courses at Heidiland over two years, this paper illustrates how language plays a role in the hierarchization of workers and how the objectives and design of the courses are a function of the workers’ position in the hierarchy. Framed in the discourse of “corporate social responsibility”, the German language courses are a means of producing particular types of workers who do not cause problems for the organization and who can work and talk uniformly, in a way that fits Heidiland’s image as an exclusive health resort. As it emerged during fieldwork, the German courses also position the workers as unwilling language learners who must be made responsible for ensuring that they transparently and efficiently do their jobs, without addressing the structural conditions of the workers’ employment and the tenuous circumstances of their lives that play an immense role as largely unsuccessful language learners.

13 November

C89, County South

1-2pm

Uta Papen, LAEL, Julia Gillen, LAEL and Ulrike Zeshan, UCLan An ethnographic approach to learning, teaching and researching multiliteracies with young deaf adults in Ghana and Uganda

We discuss two action research projects undertaken with young deaf adults in Ghana, Uganda and India in 2015-2018. The aim has been to develop a new eco-system of learning around language and literacy. Here we focus mostly on work in Ghana and Uganda. Following an approach developed by Street (2012) and others (Rogers 1999), researchers, tutors and students used ethnographic-style methods to explore everyday literacy practices. These “real literacies” provide the basis for teaching-learning activities led by deaf peer tutors.
In the first project (2015-2016), deaf research assistants worked with young deaf adults in Ghana and Uganda to understand the ethnographic contexts of English literacy among these deaf communities and then created lessons based on real life materials. We also made use of an online platform, Sign Language to English by the Deaf (SLEND) on Moodle. Data collected include lessons implemented on Moodle, portfolios collected from students, and observations by research assistants. This project led to the idea that the focus of interventions should not be English literacy, but should embrace and move beyond a set of competencies in various modes, i.e. multiliteracies (Cope and Kalantzis, 2015), including L1 India/Ghanaian /Ugandan Sign Languages, English literacies and digital literacies (Zeshan et al, 2017).
Using real texts to generate pedagogic materials has proved to be motivating but also experienced as challenging by the learners and tutors. This is partly because real texts can be complex, and partly because language education is expected to be grammar-focussed. Accordingly, in the second project we intensified the training of research assistants and peer tutors and are seeking to use a greater variety of real texts, including digital media, and to combine learning activities on real life communicative practices with integrated grammar lessons. Our move from “literacies” to “multiliteracies” has enriched our approach in many ways but continues to bring out some tensions and dilemmas along the way. We have learned that it is important to work with all participants’ views including when there are productive tensions with the real literacies approach. Genuinely participatory methods of research and teaching are called for in the search for sustainable educational innovation.

27 November

C89, County South

Paper discussion session Coming to know more through and from writing (Prain and Hand, 2016)

We will be discussing the short yet fascinating paper: Prain, V., & Hand, B. (2016). Coming to Know More Through and From Writing. Educational Researcher, 45(7), 430–434. If you have any difficulties in obtaining the paper, which available through Lancaster library, do ask Julia Gillen.

11 December

C89, County South

Geoffrey Nsanja, University of Leeds Researching interim literacy practices through the Ubuntu lens

In this talk, I present a report of a research project I did into the writing practices of novice academic writers as they transition to university education in a Malawian university. As I examined these practices through the African onto-epistemological frames of Ubuntu particularly its emphasis on interdependence and becoming as the basis for “being” or “selfhood” (cf., Gade, 2011, 2012), I will highlight that as they engaged with new Discourses of higher education my participants were not just acquiring new knowledge items. Rather, at the heart of this engagement was an identity work they were doing, one which sees their view of self evolve.
Considering that selfhood and discourse are closely intertwined (Kramsch, 2015), I will highlight in this talk that as discourses which novices produce during this liminal phase are “interim literacy genres” (Paxton, 2006, 2007), then there is need for us to perceive these genres as unlike any we are familiar with. These I call “interacademic discourses” to highlight the hybrid nature of the discourses which novices in transition produce and are hailed by. At the heart of this talk will be a highlighting of the relational challenges which novices face to cope with “new ways of being” (Gee, 2008) in a new context. I will round off the talk by highlighting that such relational problems index the point that some of the novice failings in this liminal phase are indicative of a “failure of community” (Mann, 2005) and not the individual per se.

Lent Term 2019 

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1pm 22 January County South C89 Juliet Henderson, Oxford Brookes University Towards a theorisation of possible selves in humanities and social science literacy practices

In this paper the term ‘possible selves’ is co-opted to refer to the contingent agency of the writing subject in five discursive fields of governance. As guiding ideals, productive regularities and technologies of subjectivation in the tightly regulated practices of university literacy, these fields govern what writers need to do for their work to be legitimised by dominant evaluative regimes. I distinguish the five ‘possible selves’ as follows: (i) the neoliberal self; (ii) the centred, Cartesian self; (iii) the ‘skilled’ compliant worker; (iv) the transformed, empowered self; and (v) the never completely achieved self. My intention in this paper is twofold. On the one hand, as governmentality of ‘good writing’ becomes more salient in UK universities, as evidenced by the proliferation of writing centres, questioning the givens of the social practices of ‘academic writing’ remains vital. On the other hand, I wish to make more explicit what hangs in the balance when we are either appropriated by or appropriate different styles of governmentality. In their reflexive relationship with knowledge and the institution subjects may find these categories of self of practical use in the daily business of becoming the self they aspire to be.

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Tuesday, 26 February
1-2pm
C89
Napat Jitpaisarnwattana Title

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