Multiliteracies for a Digital Age (Studies in Writing and Rhetoric) / Edition 3by Stuart Selber
Pub. Date: 02/01/2004
Publisher: Southern Illinois University Press
Just as the majority of books about computer literacy deal more with technological issues than with literacy issues, most computer literacy programs overemphasize technical skills and fail to adequately prepare students for the writing and communications tasks in a technology-driven era. Multiliteracies for a Digital Age serves as a guide for composition/i>
Just as the majority of books about computer literacy deal more with technological issues than with literacy issues, most computer literacy programs overemphasize technical skills and fail to adequately prepare students for the writing and communications tasks in a technology-driven era. Multiliteracies for a Digital Age serves as a guide for composition teachers to develop effective, full-scale computer literacy programs that are also professionally responsible by emphasizing different kinds of literacies and proposing methods for helping students move among them in strategic ways.
Defining computer literacy as a domain of writing and communication, Stuart A. Selber addresses the questions that few other computer literacy texts consider: What should a computer literate student be able to do? What is required of literacy teachers to educate such a student? How can functional computer literacy fit within the values of teaching writing and communication as a profession? Reimagining functional literacy in ways that speak to teachers of writing and communication, he builds a framework for computer literacy instruction that blends functional, critical, and rhetorical concerns in the interest of social action and change.
Multiliteracies for a Digital Age reviews the extensive literature on computer literacy and critiques it from a humanistic perspective. This approach, which will remain useful as new versions of computer hardware and software inevitably replace old versions, helps to usher students into an understanding of the biases, belief systems, and politics inherent in technological contexts. Selber redefines rhetoric at the nexus of technology and literacy and argues that students should be prepared as authors of twenty-first-century texts that defy the established purview of English departments. The result is a rich portrait of the ideal multiliterate student in a digital age and a social approach to computer literacy envisioned with the requirements for systemic change in mind.
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Selber¿s thesis, that the metaphor-equipped Humanities professors should wrest control of technology education from staid literal computer scientists, finds a deeper and deeper resonance in even the four years since he first proposed it. Three decades after computers first inverted the hierarchy between necessity and invention, we now have twitter and Facebook without yet knowing what we have them for. Selber prescribes heavy doses of context, replacing computers as cultural units born of socio-political contexts and capable of all manner of manipulation. His concepts of critical literacy and functional literacy work as twin flashlights shining on the limits of technology, casting harsh light on the narrative of technology¿s unimpeachable march forward, and especially undercutting malnourished political ideas: in the book¿s most potent passage, Selber mocks Newt Gingrich¿s proposal to give every poor family a $2500 laptop credit as a one-stop solution to the income-technology gap, invoking an image of a poor child standing in his tenement holding a laptop and no power cord. The only way to be smarter than this, Selber says, is to teach our students not just to be tech-savvy but to question the assumptions and processes of technology itself. Selber realizes that this is a big slice of easier-said-than-done, and he spends much of the book detailing hypothetical curriculum and classroom exercises that would emphasize the critical and theoretical. Selber is on less charted ground here, and the results are the shakiest: many of Selber¿s recommendations, from digital syllabi that question the nature of syllabi to class projects that take as their subject the learning parameters of other classes the students are taking, are so solipsistic that they could eat themselves for dinner. A prime example finds Selber critiquing his (Penn State) university¿s exclusive deal with Microsoft as a reinforcement of corporate dominance, a position that gets points for both truth and obviousness; Microsoft has more sinister ways of imbuing itself inextricably in our culture than a deal to give universities computers that they, in all honesty, probably asked for. It is only when Selber casts his gaze outside the confines of academia that his prescriptions become vivid: he describes a project that tasks students to work with actual businesses or nonprofits in developing websites, allowing students to maneuver the symbol-laden cultural landscape of a website¿s creation, development and publication. Critiquing the socio-political messages of a website is one thing, but running the capitalist obstacle course yourself is another; many of Selber¿s more classroom-based hypotheticals are missing this texture.
On a final note, all due to credit to Stuart Selber for coining the phrase celebrity digerati. I must meet those people.