New literacies are ever-evolving platforms for sharing information, communicating and negotiating meaning. They seem to be infinite and ever-changing from one day to the next. However Lankshear and Knobel (2012) argue that new literacies carry with them the legacies of historical ideas and are embedded in social, cultural and linguistic contexts. For example, a video-game can be a spoof of a literary work or popular culture reference.
The inextricable driver of new literacies is the Internet – the technology that allows new literacies to no longer fall within traditional parameters of spoken and written text. New literacies are multimodal, employing many of the senses in their presentation: Written, aural, visual and gestural – from facial expression to image and movement (Houtman, 2013). Think memes, Wii games, blogs podcasts, tweets, wall posts, gifs, webinars and mashups.
The purpose of using new literacies is to experience and act upon the world. Exactly how we do this is dictated by social paradigms, which have shifted from being modern and industrial, to postmodern, knowledge-based (Lankshear & Knobel, 2013). Modern paradigms emphasised a linear, fixed and individualised trajectory, where people aimed to conform to the dominant type. Postmodern paradigms have become multifaceted, flexible and non-linear (Lankshear & Knobel, 2013). As an example, an academic in the past shared their information in a peer-reviewed print journal, which was read and responded to by other academics who had paid, exclusive access to that specific journal. This was decidedly ‘modernist’. Now under a ‘postmodern’ paradigm, academics can share their information to a broader audience on both paid and open-source platforms. New literacies allow the purveyors of information to collaborate with a diverse, global and often anonymous community. Their information is reappropriated – for better or for worse, across the world with the click of a button.
Lankshear and Knobel (2013) delineate the ‘new ethos’ of new literacies, as participatory (a lively thread on an anime fanpage), proprietary (the results pulled up on a Google search, which are determined, ultimately, by Google), or projective (watching DIY home renovations on YouTube). New literacies express the technical advancements of the day, but as Houtman (2013) highlights, new literacies also reflect the ’new ethos’ of literacy itself: what values are behind the presentation of information? Lankshear and Knobel (2013) anecdotally refer to a 3-year old child creating an animation and uploading it to YouTube with her father’s assistance. This use of new literacies may be contested by traditionalists who deem the 3-year old illiterate, but any parent with a toddler who can proficiently navigate an iPad will argue they are indeed literate or at least ‘enabled’ and ‘participating’ in making meaning.
Houtman, E. (2013). New literacies, learning, and libraries: How can frameworks from other fields help us think about the issues? In the Library with the Lead Pipe. Retrieved from http://www.inthelibrarywiththeleadpipe.org/2013/new-literacies-learning-and-libraries-how-can-frameworks-from-other-fields-help-us-think-about-the-issues/ Accessed February 14th, 2014
Lankshear, C., & Knobel, M. (2012). ‘New’literacies: technologies and values. Teknokultura. Revista de Cultura Digital y Movimientos Sociales, 9(1), 45-71. Retrieved from http://everydayliteracies.net/files/RemixTeknokulturaEnglish.pdf Accessed February, 2014