Changing Literacies/Changing Mindsets: Communicating Across Digital Difference

Changing Literacies/Changing Mindsets: Communicating Across Digital Difference (CCCC 2006 Chicago — Day 3)

I had written a different session down in my conference planner, but I’m glad I want to this one. Sally Chandler brought two of her undergraduate students from Kean University, and together they presented what they learned about the nature of research with a teacher who came of age in the world of print tried to teach students who had come of age in the digital world, as they all did ethnograhic research on video games.

I had written a different session down in my conference planner, but I’m glad I want to this one. Sally Chandler brought two of her undergraduate students from Kean University.

Joshua Burnett, Kean University, “Differences Between Insider and Newcomer Mindsets in Composition and Literacy Studies.”

Yet another reference to James Gee, as part of a lists of books assigned by Sally Chandler to students Burnett and Lopez. But the students did not read the scholarly expertise first, as their teacher had expected. Instead, they considered the gamers themselves the experts, rather than academics who wrote books about gamers, and they were more interested in knowledge gained through interaction. In digital spaces, “the answer” is in a constant state of revision.

Illustrated two different approaches to research mindsets — automatic orienting features make our own mindsets invisible to us, so that we expect others to see the world as we do.

These mindsets are inherently gendered, raced and classed. They are generally structured by the spaces in which they are acquired.

The Internet Generation and the Print Generation. Internet Gen understands online space in ways that the print generation does not. The print generation cannot understand online spaces in the same way. The print generation was already fully socialized before they encountered the internet, so their encounters with digital technology are informed by the paper-based concepts.

Student encounters with print spaces are, likewise, encumbered with traces of their encounters with digital spaces.

Categories of mindset differences in the internet generation and the print generation – the presentation worked through the criteria of space, knowledge, and self. Too detailed to reproduce the whole chart here, but it was well organized.

There is too much information in the unlimited virtual space, which requires structures for organizing information to help users find and understand what they need. New technology amplifies its powers as it is appropriated and redefined by its users. And how is the location of knowledge affected by the digital age? Student researchers expected to study games by playing games, talking to gamers, visiting gaming sites, participating in gamers’ forums, and using print texts at points of need.

Internet generation authors will continue to be frustrated by the reaction of their print generation recipients. [But what about the obligations of print-generation managers to communicate in ways that their internet-generation employees can understand? –DGJ]

Jacklyn Lopez, “A Report from the Digital Contact Zone: Contact Zone Arts and the Hybridization of Literacy Mindsets.”

Lopez began with a quote from Mary Louis Pratt on writing in the contact zone.

Lopez and Burnett played games and took notes on their work, and coded their own experiences. The generational difference between the researchers and their instructor led to a disagreement about the “right” way to research games. Lopez and Burnett successfully challenged and modified the print orientation of their collaborative project, suggesting that the digital experience the researchers have confers a kind of authority that balanced the authority of the teacher’s position.

Lopez and Burnett developed a kind bilingualism, since they had to to teach her what they learned about game playing. [Of course, when Sally makes a mistake, her character dies immediately; but when she teases her students about not doing the assigned reading, the consequences of their misconceptions aren’t as fully and immediately dramatized. –DGJ]

(Shortly after I wrote the above note, Lopez herself noted that her teacher also had to translate what the students couldn’t get on their own, and notes that after the research collaboration, the print-generation teacher had picked up internet-generation techniques, and vice versa.)

[Much of Lopez’s presentation involved explaining excerpts from the notes that the researchers took. I’m fascinated by the display of a student critiquing her teacher’s research methods, and defining her own differences between her style and that of her peer researcher. This kind of ethnographic research is not what I’m personally familiar with, but since it’s gamers who are doing it themselves, I’m finding it fascinating to watch. When I see Mary Ann Buckles doing this, or Life on the Screen, or Jim Gee, I’m conscious of what the researchers are missing. –DGJ]

Sally Chandler, “What’s Different about Digital Difference?: Communicating across Differences in Technological Mindsets

The focus is really on how changing mindsets demand a response from us in the composition classroom.

Print is: linear, static, permanent, mostly linguistic, complete

Digital is: multi-dimensional, dynamic, in-process, ephemeral, multimodal, interactive.

When we contrast face-to-face communication and print communication, we see that online discourse often has more of the features of face-to-face communication than face-to-face communication does.

Digital writers expect more interaction, while print writers see that expectation of collaboration and feedback as “wrong.”

Chandler remixed Lessig and Selfe, covering the ground I’ve heard being covered in many of the presentations I’ve chosen to attend. [I particularly like how she’s applying it to ethnographic research, in a context in which the research was done by experienced gamers. The CCCCs certainly got its money worth when it invited Lessig to speak last year. Woe to the rhet/comp speaker who was at 4Cs last year but didn’t attend the Lessig talk! –DGJ]

Chandler noted that initially, all her students opposed Lessig’s concept of CopyLeft, but at the same time they admitted that they themselves had downloaded illegal material. (After a discussion with the students, more came around to seeing the value of Copyleft.)

How is teaching across this digital difference the same as teaching across the traditional categories of race, class, and gender?

At this point, the comparison points us towards the need for a new discourse, in a way that race/class/gender discourse is not new. Internet generation mindset is in many ways a product of white male military-indstrual modes, but the uses of that mode often actively contests and rewrites the dominant discourse that generated it.

In theory, the younger generation has been raised in this new culture, which leads to the possibility for (r)evolution. Digital tech is going to continue to be important, it’s not clear who’s going to control those concepts of communication.

As part of a lively discussion that followed the presentations, I was trying to say the world “e-mail memo” and it came out “e-mo.” That’s not worth blogging as a separate entry, but it’s worth a footnote here.