I FOLLOW ACADEMIC BLOGGERS (like Gabriela Avram in the photo) and read books like The New Literacy Sampler because I live for multimodalities in blogging.
Understanding multimodality leads to better creative multimedia. I can see connections in the blogs I read when I trace them with a biro on paper or when I convert them into visual diagrams. In a Digital Design module I teach, simple storyboards help unpack the social interaction and linkages that sustain grand memes.
Some people would say that blogging is a dead pool and that fast-moving currents of social media make Facebook and Twitter the better pathway to online interactions. That may be true but there are very useful perspectives gained by analysing blogs and giving close scrutiny to clumps of text, fonts of type, and operative phrases.
Our online digital lives foster new ways of giving meaning to campaigns and objectives. What emerged first in blogs and now rides strong on Facebook are direct challenges to newspaper editors, politicians with mailshots, and the printed book. In fact, the printed page is less likely to evoke change. The socio-semiotic approach taken by clever promoters today means the greatest influence is made on people (voters, taxpayers, parents) by what is communicated on screens.
So I spend a lot of time on screen and try to cross-reference what's displayed in pixel form to what I can hear on radio, see on television or read on paper. The greatest discovery I have made it that by understanding the visual, I can truly deconstruct the textual.
As a member of a faculty of higher education, I need to ensure my students can understand the semiotics and representation of messages deluging them on a daily basis. This needs to be a proper academic emphasis and one that realises that the materiality of media texts today is truly multimodal.
Multimodality is a new literacy. It involves complex representations interlaced with complex forms of communication that many new third level students have never experienced. When I try to introduce them to the screens where these media texts appear, I often get blowback from students who consider my approach unwelcome. They don't want to muddy themselves in Facebook and they don't want to waste time on Twitter. I revert with a shocking definition of what it means to be literate in the 21st century. And when I encounter the go-slow "Cellphone Amish" students, I can see in their eyes grave concerns about social navigation. I know they will have major issues with interacting online and I doubt they will derive value from online social media.
So I often step back and start with deconstructing my own personal learning network and hope to embolden them with the courage to carve out their own.
I've been online since ARPANET in 1974. I've had a website since 1996. I've been blogging since 2001. I'm among the first 100 people in Ireland to open a Twitter account and no more than five people in Ireland were using LinkedIn when I joined that network. I've an active online life but one that involves more partial engagement than meaningful online conversation. I type items like this blog post while standing in a corner, feeling like I'm catching my breath after reading a passage from a book or a post that appeared in my news aggregator. That's how I do social navigation--yet it's not necessarily the method that will work with my college students.
I blog on Inside View and Educasting.ie because I want to challenge what I wrote before by reading what students think about it. Sometimes that means editing old content or repurposing audio and video to complement learning material. With 10 years in my back catalogue, it is very easy to locate material in a journal from one project and to tailor it for presentation in newer academic module. And when I push those blog posts out into Google Plus or when their headlines appear on Twitter, I often get meaningful participatory responses.
Getting the attention from readers--that's something I can see from Statcounter and Google Analytics. I can measure my value in the attention economy by the range and depth of blog comments. I enjoy that conversational interaction most because getting comments means I've provided value.
Now I need to return to reviewing student assignments and repurposing some of the results into a screencast for next week's lectures. In doing that, I believe the composite result creates a lovely cascading effect for students who see their work referenced and distributed for others to peruse. When I read, recompose and share, I produce learning material with a measureable social value. And that might be the ultimate level of social literacy.
Gabriela Avram blogs at Coniecto.org.
Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel -- New Literacies Sampler ISBN 978-0820495231
Michael Gallagher -- Blog Content Distribution as Social Literacy, October 7, 2011.