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Developing Transnational Literacies recent journal articles


Towards a Babel ontology

critical literacy,new_media

“This article presents a few issues in the making of our film A Long History of Madness that pertain to the ‘Babylonic’. Spoken in 12 languages, ranging across six centuries, and shot in five countries, the film possesses an inherent Babylonism. It makes a case for a multilingual mode of communicating. Yet, beyond the obvious need for verbal communication, for which subtitles are
necessary but insufficient, the film presents other reasons for extending the concept of translation. The knot of potential confusion and the need for ‘translation’ are the ontological uncertainties surrounding ‘madness’ itself. The key questions are: are people mad? Do they perform madness, or do others perceive them as mad because they are too dissimilar from them to be accepted as
‘normal’? This fundamental uncertainty affects all forms of alterity. Translation becomes, then, a tool to negotiate alterity under the terms of the acceptance of this ontological uncertainty.”

Travelling languages: culture, communication and translation in a mobile world – Langua…

critical literacy,cosmopolis

The papers which are included in this Special Issue represent eclectic understandings of the dual concepts of mobile language and border crossings, from crossings in ‘virtual life’ and ‘real life’, to crossings in literature and translation, and finally to crossings in the ‘semioscape’ of tourist guides and tourism signs. In the way in which the papers have been arranged in this issue they more or less correspond to one of these dimensions.



“In this paper, the authors examine some of the implications of born-digital research environments by discussing the emergence of data mining and the analysis of social media platforms. With the rise of individual online activity in chat rooms, social networking sites and micro-blogging services, new repositories for social science research have become available in large quantities. Given the changes of scale that accompany such research, both in terms of data mining and the communication of results, the authors term this type of research ‘massified research’. This article argues that while the private and commercial processing of these new massive data sets is far from unproblematic, the use by academic practitioners poses particular challenges with respect to established ethical protocols. These involve reconfigurations of the external relations between researchers and participants, as well as the internal relations that compose the identities of the participant, the researcher and that of the data. Consequently, massified research and its outputs operate in a grey area of undefined conduct with respect to these concerns. The authors work through the specific case study of using Twitter’s public Application Programming Interface for research and visualization. To conclude, this article proposes some potential best practices to extend current procedures and guidelines for such massified research. Most importantly, the authors develop these under the banner of ‘agile ethics’. The authors conclude by making the counterintuitive suggestion that researchers make themselves as vulnerable to potential data mining as the subjects who comprise their data sets: a parity of practice.”

Organising the digital commons: a case study on engagement strategies in open source – …


“In this paper we develop a conceptual framework for understanding the co-evolution of a virtual community and a hybrid governance regime. The research site is the Eclipse software development community led by IBM and based on data collected from activities of community members, we examine the attempts of participants to construct and refine a hybrid governance structure while developing and expanding the community. Drawing on strategy-as-practice approach and institutional theory, we bring arguments at two instances of this co-evolution process: the initiation and enactment. For the initiation of the community we argue that, beyond market-driven considerations, tensions and polarisation in the existing proprietary regimes, governance structures, and philosophies promote new practices. For the establishment process we emphasise the role of member-driven horizontal and vertical structural adjustments, and the maintenance of open-source developer spirit.”

Geopolitics of sensing and knowing: on (de)coloniality, border thinking and epistemic d…


“This essay offers an introduction to the ‘decolonial option’. The author begins by setting his project apart from its European contemporaries such as biopolitics and by tracing the historical origins of his project to the Bandung Conference of 1955 that asserted decolonization as the ‘third way’, beyond Soviet communism and liberal capitalism. Decoloniality needs to emphasize itself once again as a ‘third way’. This time it has to break the tandem formed by ‘rewesternization’ (championed by Obama’s administration and the EU) and ‘dewesternization’ (represented by so-called emergent countries). The decolonial option embraces epistemic disobedience and border thinking in order to question the behaviour of world powers. Ultimately what is at stake is advancing what the author calls global political society.”

Contours of Learning: On Spivak – Parallax – Volume 17, Issue 3

critical literacy,postcolonial

“Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s long career as teacher, theorist and activist has been characterised by a sustained commitment to pedagogy, and in particular by an awareness of how the dilemmas and problems that teaching throws up – whether in the classrooms of subaltern communities in West Bengal or in the seminar rooms of Columbia University – can offer a beginning for theoretical reflection. Such problems, which often serve as anecdotal starting points in her essays as Spivak describes moments of problematic encounter with resistance, confusion, privilege and silence, often work to trip up, in enabling ways, the kinds of paradigms that theory might otherwise want to impose, whether onto notions of cultural, social or gender difference, or onto ideas of development and globality. They are occasions for Spivak to draw attention to the ideological conditions in which differing forms of education (elementary and tertiary, Southern and Northern, public and private) operate, sutured as they are in their different ways to the nation-state. Yet an equally longstanding insistence of Spivak’s work, from earlier essays such as her review of Derrida’s Limited Inc, ‘Revolutions that as Yet Have No Model’ (1980) through to later works such as Other Asias (2008) has been that the classroom, whether located in rural West Bengal or in New York, offers a crucial site for the training of the imagination into the possibility of a different, collective political life of the future.”

Radical Teacher – Critical Gaming Pedagogy

critical literacy,new_media

“Meet Benjamin, an aspiring Game Designer. If he works hard to accumulate the required skills in the game design industry, his career path will move steadily and predictably from Beta Tester to Hacker and finally to Game Designer. If he is not satisfied with that achievement, Benjamin can keep working and move up to Venture Capitalist, opening his own company, or ultimately to Information Overlord, entirely monopolizing the regional media. No glass ceiling will bar his ascent; no workload increases will tax his resolve; no layoffs will frustrate the steady pace of his advance. Regardless of age, race, class, or gender, with a little hard work and ingenuity, Benjamin can achieve any career he wants. If this career vector seems too good to be true, it is because it is not true. Benjamin is a simulated character—a sim—inhabiting the virtual space of the popular video game The Sims. McKenzie Wark, author of the book Gamer Theory, created Benjamin as an example of how games are not so much simulations of reality, but ideal models that embody hegemonic ideology (20-22). In this case, Benjamin’s easy prosperity reveals how the algorithm governing economic life in The Sims is based on an “American Dream” in which an ideal combination of meritocracy, full employment, equal opportunity, and upward mobility is perceived to be the norm. Wark purposely contrasts his virtual Benjamin, who lives in this free-market ideal of capitalism, to the real Benjamin, a game designer struggling to survive in today’s harsh economic landscape. After losing his job at a small game-design firm that went belly-up, the real Benjamin moved to a larger firm—Electronic Arts, owners of The Sims. In an online forum, Benjamin’s wife exposed how”

Weaving a New ‘Net: A Mesh-Based Solution for Democratizing Networked Communications – …


“Although the Internet is largely decentralized in its communication and social patterns, its technical and regulatory apparatuses are highly centralized and hierarchical. Consequently, digital communications are vulnerable to a degree of surveillance and censorship that would be unthinkable in traditional social arenas, threatening “Internet freedom” and cyberliberties in both democratic and politically repressed societies. We believe a new architecture is required in order to protect the continuance of civil liberties in networked society. In this article, we propose 10 “social specifications” describing the requirements of such a network, and outline an architecture called MondoNet that meets these specifications using ad hoc, wireless mesh networking technologies. We also address the legal and technical challenges facing the MondoNet project, and anticipate future developments in this field.”

Bilingual-intercultural education for indigenous children: the case of Mexico in an era…

critical literacy,indigenous

“The past 25 years have brought upheaval to the indigenous people of Mexico due to two opposing forces: modernization and globalization, on the one hand, and indigenous uprisings on the other. Suddenly, the topic of indigenous languages and education was brought into official discussions at the national level. This paper examines the tensions that emerge between the political discourses which emanate from within the indigenous communities and from the national government, and the actual implementation of educational policy models. The political–educational discourse shifted from Spanishization [castellanización], assimilation, and integration to bilingualism, interculturalism, and participation. We demonstrate that this shift was not a smooth transition, but rather an abrupt change that occurred in the early 1990s. Further, despite the shift to new discourses that respected indigenous languages and cultures, institutional factors have not been altered sufficiently to improve the conditions of indigenous education or their well-being in Mexico. Thus, ultimately, the new discourse of bilingualism and interculturalism in education serves to obfuscate the socio-political-economic work that must be done to truly allow the indigenous people to participate in the nation’s political life.”

Turning Silence into Speech and Action: Prison Activism and the Pedagogy of Empowered C…

critical literacy,citizenship

“Based on almost 50 years of combined experience as prison activists and prison teachers, the authors offer three case studies of prison activism and pedagogy in action. The first case study, by Hartnett, details the “artistry of agency” as enacted in poetry workshops in prison and in public poetry events, thus illustrating artistic communication. The second, by Wood, examines how friendship becomes political in the epistolary communication between free and imprisoned correspondents, thus addressing interpersonal communication. The third, by McCann, addresses web-based communication as a tool for advocacy for condemned prisoner/activists on Texas’s death row, and hence political communication. Taken as a whole, the three case studies celebrate different communication strategies as avenues of enlightenment and empowerment while offering powerful arguments for abolishing the prison–industrial complex.”

Pedagogic discourses and imagined communities: knowing Islam and being Muslim – Discour…

critical literacy,discourse_analysis,national_global_imaginaries

“Academic disciplines in the school curriculum which engage explicitly with cultural identities pose a major dilemma for liberal, pluralist societies seeking to foster the dual imperatives of diversity education and social cohesion. This paper uses the case of Islam as school knowledge to analyse the relations between political stances and symbolic constructions in English religious education. For this purpose, the study applies an interdisciplinary theoretical framework, integrating diachronic concepts of the nation-state with cultural recontextualization theory from the sociology of the curriculum.”

Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices. An Illustrated History of the English Lang…

critical literacy,englishes

“The history and evolution of English in all its diversity is the subject of David Crystal’s edifying new book, Evolving English: One Language, Many Voices, published by the British Library in conjunction with its acclaimed exhibition of the same name. Crystal is a highly regarded author of over a 100 books and is no stranger to anyone keenly interested in language, linguistics, and the history of English. Combining a hobbyist’s enthusiasm with an academic’s erudition, he has a knack for writing in a down-to-earth style that appeals to a wide audience regardless of how familiar they are with the subject matter.”

Language Rights: The “Cinderella” Human Right – Journal of Human Rights – Vol…


In the last 60 years, we have seen the growing development and articulation of human rights, particularly within international law and within and across supranational organizations. However, in that period, the right to maintain one’s language(s), without discrimination, remains peculiarly underrepresented and/or problematized as a key human right. This is primarily because the recognition of language rights presupposes recognizing the importance of wider group memberships and social contexts; conceptions that ostensibly militate against the primacy of individual rights in the post-Second World War era. Drawing on theoretical debates in political theory and international law, as well as the substantive empirical example of Catalonia, this article argues that language rights can and should be recognized as an important human right.

Classroom contradictions: Popular media in Ontario schools’ literacy and citi…

critical literacy,cultural_studies,education

“In 2003, the Ontario Ministry of Education in Canada began promoting popular media as a pedagogical tool, especially for ‘reluctant’ readers. This ‘pedagogy of the popular’ is instituted within a critical media literacy framework that draws on the values and codes of multiculturalism to counter the consumerist messages students encounter in nontraditional texts. The model of civic citizenship promoted by the critical media literacy curriculum, however, fails in its ambitions to provide a counterweight to the neo-liberal model of consumer citizenship. Insofar as its critique is grounded in a multicultural politics of representation, Ontario’s media literacy curriculum fails to deeply interrogate the social roots of conflict and discrimination. As a result, it only weakly challenges, and is unlikely to displace, the post-Keynesian-era model of citizenship education in which the values of universality and inclusiveness are subsumed to an ethos that naturalizes the practices and moral codes of the marketplace.”

Reimagining Critical Theory – British Journal of Sociology of Education – Volume 32, Is…

critical literacy,education

“This paper discusses Critical Theory, a model of theorizing in the field of the political sociology of education. We argue for a reimagined Critical Theory to herald an empowering, liberatory education that fosters curiosity and critical thinking, and a means for successful bottom-up, top-down political engagement. We present arguments at a theoretical and meta-theoretical level, leaving empirical analysis to a future writing. We hold it impossible: to fully dissociate normative from the analytical in constructing scientific thought, thus showing the importance of the notion of a good society to guide varied intellectual explorations; to deny the political role of education; and to detach from historicity of thought and policy prescriptions emerging from such theorizing, as not all social constructions are equal in terms of logical configuration, methodological rigor, or solid empirical proof. What follows are snapshots of how we can reimagine the historical present, and how Critical Theory can impact the new theorizing of sociology of education.”

Journal of Narrative Theory – Teaching Culture

critical literacy,new_media

“Throughout the history of film, plots have required that a character be rendered unconscious for a finite period with no explanation of the process and with no other consequence, to which end, the medium invented the “magic-single-punch.” All one character has to do is say: “I hate to do this but . . .” then throw a swift punch to jaw, and the recipient agrees to pass out for however long the plot requires. More significant than this compliant character is the equally compliant viewer, who accepts this miracle of anesthesia, that works to perfect effect even on a character who, in other scenes, might have a chair broken over his head or receive several karate chops to the trachea with barely a blink or stagger. Although I believe that car chases were the reason God invented “fast-forward,” even more bewildering than the apparent popularity of this screen event is the fact that audiences have failed, over the last two decades, to wonder why not one of the cars involved has a working airbag. Such thoughts, of course, disrupt the pleasure that has been paid for with money, time, and attention, in the same way, for example, that disputing the comparably absurd tenets of Reaganomics disrupts the myth of satisfaction purchased with (low) taxes, lip-service patriotism, and self-serving citizenship.1 In 1984—in the middle of Reagan’s reign over morning in America—federal law required that all cars have passive restraints by 1989. Since Reagan’s second term, in other words, in defiance of legality and common sense, the premises of Reaganomics and of movie car chases have remained unchallenged. Fueled on the one hand by pleasure industries, and on the other, by think tanks and talk radio, the speeding of the economy and of the movie-chase car, along parallel courses toward disastrous crashes could be glossed by saying that, as usual, American mass media had disabled the wrong airbags. Although we do not n

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