'Travel Notes': Foreword and Introduction

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Teachers College • Columbia University

ITSF 4015 Intro to Computers, Language, & Literacy
(2-3 points)
Monday, Wednesday 2:00-4:05
234 Horace Mann

Prof. Jo Anne Kleifgen

Open Office Hours:
4:00-6:00, 352 Macy

Course Assistant:
Matt Curinga


Fields of Study Underlyling the Book

  • The New Literacy Studies (Street, Barton & Hamilton, Gee, etc.)
  • Multimodality (Kress, van Leeuwen, etc.)
  • Other key words/fields of study

Combined, the New Literacy Studies and Multimodality are able to address a wider range of issues related to meaning-making.

The New Literacy Studies

  • Objects of study - People: participants, practices, events
  • Literacy (reading and writing) as a social practice
  • Reading and writing vary across cultural time and space (social context) – multiple ‘literacies’ (e.g. school, religion, commercials)
  • Emic view: the actor's (the insider's) view [Opposite - Etic: the observer's (the outsider's) view]
 Brian Street: Autonomous model of literacy v.s. Ideological model of literacy
 - Autonomous model: Literacy has an autonomous, unilinear effect/consequence for society
 - Ideological model: Literacy is a social process, and is linked to different cultural
   and power structures in different societies for specific social purposes
 Barton and Hamilton: Literacy is best understood as a set of social practices
 - Values, attitudes, feelings and social relationships, awareness, constructions and
   discourses of literacy in the society
 - Internal to the individual but also social processes
 Gee: Small 'd' discourse and large 'D' discourse
 - discourse: “language bits” or the grammar of what is said.  (Rogers, 2004, p. 5)
 - Discourse: “ways of representing, believing, valuing, and participating with the language
               bits” (Rogers, 2004, p. 5)

Media:Halliday_Fairclough_Gee-3.jpg (Comparison of Halliday, Gee and Fairclough from Rogers, 2004)


  • Objects of study - Tools: semiosis, modes and affordances, genres, signs, sign-makers
  • Writing and speech as the central, salient modes of representation
  • Also, other modes (visual, gestural, kinaesthetic, three-dimensional)
 Kress: "[W]hat (physical) materials of representation has a society used and still
         uses; and to what degree has it developed that material into an articulated
         reprsentational resource?" (Kress, 2000, p. 185)
 - Material(ity) = "the 'stuff' which a culture uses as the means for the expression
                   of (its) meanings (Kress, 2000, p. 185)
       1. Physical stuff (e.g. sound, marks on a surface, texture): "[M]ateriality
          marks the interface of the natural world with the cultural world" (Kress,
          2000, p. 185)
       2. Non-physical stuff: "the more a particular kind of material has been worked
          on culturally and semiotically, the more this 'secondary materiality' is
          available itself as 'material' for semiosis" (Kress, 2000, p. 185) (e.g.
          lexicon, which is differentiated according to social and cultural factors)
 - Mode: "the (full) semiotically articulated means of representation and communication"
          (Kress, 2000, p. 185)
         e.g. Graphology is a mode (physical materials, the abstract organization
              of the marks as a non-physical, representational system, and further
              representation of that system within the brain in some form of neural
              organisation, all of which are used to produce external representations.)

Other key words/fields of study

  • Multiliteracies: the multiplicity of communications channels and increasing cultural and linguistic diversity in the world (the New London Group, 1996)
  • Critical literacy: A field of literacy studies challenging the status quo (e.g. Freire, 1970)
  • Ethnography of communication (Gumperz, Dell Hymes, etc.): Ethnography is "a field of study which is concerned primarily with the description and analysis of culture, and linguistics is a field concerned, among other things, with the description and analysis of language codes" (Saville-Troike, 2002, p.1); “Ethnography allows us to view multimodality within a larger, broader context of patterned practices” (Pahl and Rowsell, 2006, p. 9)

Questions/Discussion Topics

In the foreword and the introduction, we have encountered different fields of study related to literacy/language, that is, the New Literacy Studies, multimodality, ethnography and others...


  • Please reflect upon your everyday experiences (at school, on the street, in the workplace...) that resonate with the arguments from these fields of study.
  • Please discuss the relationship between these fields of study and "technology." What is "technology" from the perspectives of these fields of study?
  • Please discuss how you think that these fields of study can help your research.
  • Your thoughts on any points raised in the articles are welcome.


  • Barton, D. and Hamilton, M. (2000). Literacy practices. In D. Barton, M. Hamilton, & R. Ivanic (Eds.), Situated Literacies (pp. 7-15). New York: Routledge.
  • Freire, P. (1970). Pedagogy of the oppressed. New York: Continuum.
  • Kress, G. (2000). Multimldality. In B. Cope & M. Kalantzis (Eds.), Multiliteracies: Literacy learning and the design of social futures (pp. 182-202). London and New York: Routledge.
  • New London Group. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 60-92.
  • Pahl, K. & Rowsell, J. (Eds.). (2006). Travel notes from the New Literacy Studies: Instances of practice. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
  • Rogers, R. (Ed.). (2004). An introduction to critical disocurse analysis in education. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  • Saville-Troike, M. (2002). The ethnography of communication: An introduction. New York: Blackwell.
  • Street, B. (1993). Introduction: the New Literacy Studies. In B. Street (Ed.), Cross-cultural approaches to literacy (pp. 1-22). New York: Cambridge University Press.

--Hayataka 14:46, 6 June 2007 (EDT)

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