Literacies in the ‘digital university’ #MyEdDModule

2014-07-18 15.11.54

Goodfellow, Robin (2013) The Literacies of ‘digital scholarship’ – truth and use values, Chapter 5 in Goodfellow and Lea (Eds) Literacy in the digital university: critical perspectives on learning, scholarship and technology, Society for Research into Higher Education, London: Routledge 

This chapter comparatively explores two texts from the perspective of literacies in the digital university. Through an examination of the macro and micro literacy practices – values, beliefs, attitudes and practices that inform how texts are produced, he argues for a distinction to be made between truth value and use value. Both texts are academic texts; they emerge from slightly different discourse communities and are intended for different audiences. As such – one text – the more conventional text – is more fully grounded in published literature, has a distant objective authorial voice, and is intended for a particular academic community. The other text (despite the affordances of hyper-linked intertextuality) is less grounded in scholarly literature, has a dialogic voice which emerges from its emergence out of an on-line community of academic scholars, and is published with values that are explicit in their intention to be open. Goodfellow is critical of the claims to be ‘open’ suggesting that ‘open’ means more than available free of charge through the publisher’s website on the internet.

His main argument is that, in the literacies of digital scholarship,  there is a distinction between the values that underpin each of the texts. Both texts are academic. But in one instance the writer leans towards a ‘truth’ value. They are rigorous, authoritative, grounded and empirical. In the other ‘academic text’ the writer leans toward use. The text is written with a more open audience in mind. It is conversational, less reliant on the literature, communicative and free. He suggests that these values are consistent with and an expression of the values of the knowledge community that comprise the texts audience. Goodfellow is critical of the collapse of a distinction between ‘digital’ and ‘open’. Being one does not equate to being the other. 

This is a fine illustration of a literacies approach to understanding scholarship in the digital university. Goodfellow offers a typology of audiences – professional, academic, amateur or citizen – suggesting that each of these will have different knowledge values. He also predicts that this distinction between the digital and the open may well be the defining dichotomy for the university of the future. 

I like Goodfellow’s methodology – using a critical discourse analysis to review these texts, but with the emphasis placed not on the content of each of the texts as such, but on their anthropological roots. It is apparent that Goodfellow is less empathetic towards the text that makes claims to being open. The paper is premised upon questioning and critiquing this claim.  His final comment seems a direct response to the writers’ predictive assertions made elsewhere  that in the future scholarly publishing will be primarily digital. That digital literacies will have a transformative effect on the university. 

Time will tell.

Weelere @ LSE


Possibilities and probabilities of digital literacies

I like this questioning Ann Walker, WEA Digital Literacies – Essential or Desirable. In a spirit of open discussion, I would offer a variation – Digital Literacies: possible or probable.

That is, there are those who live their lives on-line. They slip between screen and paper with unconscious ease and find the idea of sitting and playing a game of scrabble – a physical game, using an actual board and tiles, not a computer  – to be something of a novelty. It is not unusual, for some, to visit tiny tucked away villages in northern Ghana without leaving their study. They regularly read and discuss with friends in Accra the ins and outs West African politics as reported on the front page of the national newspapers.

For the digital haves the literacies they involve are endless with possibilities. There is no aspect of their lives that does not involve some form of digital engagement, or would not be enhanced by it. Such are the possibilities.

The digital has become thoroughly embedded into the everyday. Sometimes with exciting possibilities, sometimes as just another thing we have to do. It can be hard for us to imagine a life in which things are otherwise.


The text reads: “I’ve been to a traditional craft course learning how to write a letter with a pen and paper. All I’ve got to do now is scan it in and email it to someone.”

But these lives – the lives in which the digital is not exciting or inevitable – exist.

And so alongside the endless possibilities of digital literacies, what are the probabilities of digital literacies. How do we ensure that ‘digital by default’ is more than decorative flourish that accents our pedagogy?  How do we manage the inevitable inequalities opened up by this new terrain. For years literacy teaching and learning has been engulfed beneath waves of policy effervescence; in my view it often struggles to connect in meaningful ways to the lives of students. Teachers do it, but they accomplish this is despite rather then because of the ever changing policy landscapes that surround them. An approach to digital literacy that centres around the probable and the possible lives of learners is a good starting point.

This implies a sound rationale that defines:

  • what should we teach
  • why should we teach it and
  • how best to teach it

The twitter chat on hashtag #ukfechat offers some interesting perspectives on this.

The reasoning matters because – I teach and, in my evangelical zeal, it’d be possible to insist students develop the enthusiasms that inspire me or that the preferred curriculum becomes a list of favourite digital activities. But not everyone olives the same life and so the what, why and how need to be locally defined.