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Transliteracy and “The New Literacy” March 11, 2010

Posted by fafeeley in Uncategorized.

I have to admit that I am one of those educators bellyaching about the decline of proper English language usage and the hastening of this horror by the array of communication tools used by people of all ages. In the spirit of rigid conformity to proper usage (I was educated by nuns after all), I was delighted to see that my iPhone provides spellcheck and other features that permit me to easily create texts and other types of messages IN COMPLETE SENTENCES. I refuse to utilize the popular shorthand options in my communication.

I was happy to see another perspective on the question of the impact of communication tools on the quantity and quality of writing by people of all ages. I came across the following article by Clive Thompson in Wired Magazine (9/2009) – while browsing Bobbi Newman’s blog “Libraries and Tranliteracy.”

Bobbi Newman’s blog: http://librariesandtransliteracy.wordpress.com/

Clive Thompson’s article: http://www.wired.com/techbiz/people/magazine/17-09/st_thompson#ixzz0hb7Y4fLi 

The most salient points were 1. people of all ages are writing much more for an audience that extends beyond a single teacher/professor which makes the experience more purposeful; and 2.more people of all ages continue to engage in the task of  writing in a wide range of contexts long after their formal education ends regardless of occupation.

This reminds me of the advent of the printing press in terms of revolutionary aspects. The Internet has often been compared to the printing press, because the introduction of both to society exponentially increased access to information by the masses. The aspect of this that is just settling on me is that in the world of Web 2.o, the participatory aspect has also increased exponentially. So people are PRODUCING. Of course most people’s texts and blogs don’t command a very wide audience, but the potential is there for wider sharing. In the case of my own Web 2.o production, I have the expectation that at least one or two people will read my work, view my online photos, etc. And that inspires me to produce something that meets a minumum level of quality (with more thought that I would put into, say, a voicemail). A perfect example of this was my recent posting of reviews of books I have read on Shelfari.


I wrote reviews of some of my favorite books from the past few years. I am sure there are thousands of reviews of each of the books I posted. But dedicating myself to the task, I identified the key aspects of those works that resonated for me. I wrote no detailed “book reports” but rather found myself employing the “concision” touted by Clive Thompson as a documented benefit of engagement in Web 2.0 environments. In other words, I got to the point! And, no less importantly, I enjoyed it!

Moving on to the concept of transliteracy, the term is new to me, but from what I gather about it up to now it’s productively utilizing (managing? juggling? coping with?) multiple tools and platforms simultaneously. It’s all about integrating tools and services in order to fully realize their potential.

It became apparent early on in this course that we would be engaging continually in transliteracy skills (even before I heard the term). We are using multiple communication tools and punctuating our usage of them with cross referencing. For example, you can access my Flickr photostream from this blog. I am utilizing Creative Commons to share work posted on this blog and on Flickr. I can access all my e-mail accounts and Facebook on any PC or my iPhone. Once my students reached a certain level of mastery with PowerPoint, I taught them how to convert individual presentation slides into JPEG format and upload those JPEG images to Voicestream to create digital stories. I can take photos using my iPhone and then upload to Facebook or Flickr, send them by e-mail or text, or save them in an organized way in my PC for later use. For years I meticulously maintained my OUTLOOK and iTunes data, never anticipating that I would be able to access them so easily on an integrated hand-held unit. Who knows what other new tools and services will be available! I suppose transliteracy is about keeping up, being flexible, and being welcoming of new innovations.

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Fran Feeley’s Blog by Francis A. Feeley is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.



1. Lisa Perez - March 11, 2010

Fran: I have been hearing from various sources lately that our students are actually not in a writing decline. They write more than ever, but for various audiences and in styles of a range of formalities. That is heartening to me. Of course, transliteracy skills seem to be a moving target. What constitutes information literacy or other types of literacy skills in one year can be vastly different several years later. We live in interesting times!

2. Bobbi Newman - March 12, 2010

In reference to the printing press and evolution I think you’ll enjoy this quote from Socrates in which he complains of the write word – “an aid not to memory, but to reminiscence, and you give your disciples not truth, but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.” Pluto, The Phaedrus

If you’re interested I’ve blogged a better (I think) definition of transliteracy here http://librarianbyday.net/2010/03/defining-transliteracy/

fafeeley - March 17, 2010

Bobbi, thanks for your feedback. I am going to post a link to the transliteracy definitions as well as the video about “The Future of Publishing,” which was fascinating. Best! Fran

3. More on transliteracy… « Fran Feeley's Blog - March 17, 2010

[…] my first comment from a librarian power blogger, and I am really excited about it. She read my post Transliteracy and the New Literacy and suggested that I read some definitions and reflections about transliteracy that she posted on […]

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