Cope and Kalantzis’ Multiliteracies

Bill Cope and Mary Kalantzis, eds.
Multiliteracies: Literacy Learning and the Design of Social Futures
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies
From John Trimbur’s Review

•    One way to measure the last thirty years in the study and teaching of writing is to start with the Dartmouth Seminar in 1966 and then fast-forward to 1994 when a group of ten literacy educators formed the New London Group (NLG)
•    For the NLG, the notion of multiliteracies is both an analytical tool to understand changes that are taking place in the means and channels of communication and an organizing principle for a literacy curriculum that enables students to participate fully in public, community, and economic life.
•    Multiliteracies is, first of all, a way to come to grips with the fact that post-Fordist, globalized societies such as the US, the UK, and Australia are increasingly fragmented culturally and linguistically, at the same time new text forms associated with multimedia, information technologies, and a knowledge economy are altering people’s personal, public, and working lives
•    “We also witness another, somewhat contradictory development-the increasing invasion of private spaces by mass media culture, global commodity culture, and communication and information networks” (16).
•    In other words, the notion of multiliteracies offers a powerful integrative term to join together-and to see the relationships among-historical changes in the workplace, in everyday life, and in the public sphere that are often kept separate.
•    Second, the notion of multiliteracies provides a way for literacy educators to take into account these changing realities-and the “increasing complexity and interrelationship of different modes of meaning” (25)
•    The provocation is in part that Design challenges the residual hold of organic metaphors and personal growth from the Dartmouth Seminar days by proposing a unifying metaphor of sign-making that calls attention to the mechanics of signifying practice.
•    Design, for the NLG, is both a noun and a verb: drawing on “Available Designs” (e.g. discourses, styles, genres, dialects, voices), meaning-makers transform historically received patterns of meaning through the work of “Designing” so that the end product is neither a “simple reproduction (as the myth of standards and transmission pedagogy would have us believe), nor is it simply creative (as the myths of individual originality and personal voice would have us believe)” (23).
o    The result instead is “The Redesigned:” an outcome based on the “play of cultural re- sources and uniquely positioned subjectivity” (23) through which sign-makers not only make new meanings but in the process remake themselves.
o    Design, on the other hand, “is the essential textual principle and pedagogic/political goal for periods characterised by intense and far-reaching change,” periods such as the present when social arrangements and the new means of textual production are unsettled and in flux.
•    To achieve the future, the NLG says, “we need to engage in a critical dialogue with the core concepts of fast capitalism, of emerging pluralistic forms of citizenship, and of different lifeworlds” (19).
From Michael Newman’s Review
•    Discuss the ML aim of building pluralistic societies and how that goal relates to various aspects of the new economy and globalization.
•    The arguments vary, though all relate to how traditional models of education – be they homogenizing, critical, or multicultural – are not sufficient to provide all students with equitable opportunities.
•    A useful definition of literacy as “socially made forms of representing and communicating” (157).
•    They lay out the four-part ML pedagogy:
o    (1) Situated Practice, a form of immersion in practice;
o    (2) Overt Instruction, encouraging conscious reflection;
o    (3) Critical Framing, interpreting of social and cultural contexts of practice;
o    (4) Transformed Practice, a shifting of contexts of use.


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