Alexander, Bryan. 2008. “Web 2.0 and Emergent Multiliteracies.” Theory Into Practice. 47, no. 2:150-160. ISSN 00405841.
Although it already seems dated (was 2008 really that long ago?), this article presents a solid overview of the many ways in which students write and create online – their “multiple literacies” as the title suggests. In the epigraph, Alexander refers to one of my favorite Kathy Yancy points; “Note that no one is making anyone do any of this writing” (from Yancy, K. B. (2004). “Made not only in in words: Composition in a new key.” CCCC, 56, 297-328). Despite the trend of using online composing in schools (where you can argue someone is making them write), the truth remains that people of all ages are composing text messages, facebook posts, tweets, and blog posts everyday outside o
f any institutional framework. This is important for instructors who work in institutions where many students claim to have never written an essay or read a book previous to college (my CC composition students frequently write this in diagnostic essays – I realize this does not mean teachers have not assigned these tasks…).
Perhaps most useful to me is Alexander’s discussion of social filtering : “Drawing on the wisdom of the crowds, users contribute content to the work of others, leading to multiple-authored works, whose authorship grows over time” (153). This “digital strategy” includes commenting on, tagging, and distributing microcontent. In building commenting and tagging features into my course blogs and my digital project the Writing Studies Tree, I hope to harness this exact notion – collective wisdom. Within these very different digital spaces my expectations of social filtering is also different: in the context of a undergraduate course blog, I want the students to learn from each other by commenting on each other’s drafts and discussion posts, and tagging exists to show patterns between texts (both the course material and student work), whereas on the Writing Studies Tree, I hope to increase searchability and enhance the filtering on my visualizations by encouraging a folksonomy, and commenting primarily exists to gather information that cannot be represented visually. In both cases the interactivity generates new knowledge. I am very interested in studying the results of that knowledge creation process (visa-vi the process itself). As the title of this article alludes, I think the ability to create and understand these new forms of writing within digital spaces is a vital skill, one that needs to be addressed in our system of education.
Note on future uses of this article:
For my research project on the Writing Studies Tree tagging feature, I will use Alexander’s distinction that “folksonomies consist of single words (FOOTNOTE in my case this could be titles or phrases) that users choose and apply to microcontent. In contrast, traditional metadata is usually hierarchical (topics nested within topics), structured (traditional library sanctioned standards such as Dublin Core), and predetermined by content authorities (bibliographers, catalogers)” (153-4). An important distinction because I am looking to the contributors as the experts in the field whose knowledge will become apparent through the use of the site.
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