Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Man invents the gun, but you can take it back from him

I found all three of tonight’s readings to be relevant and useful reminders of the true connections between technology and power, and between technology and literacy. Not much stuff I hadn’t heard before, but good reminders, and good places to turn to for reference in the future.

The New London Group’s piece reminded me a lot of stuff that Bob Eddy introduced us to in 501. Their claim on page 17 that “Just as there are multiple layers to everyone’s identity, there are multiple discourses of identity and multiple discourses of recognition to be negotiated,” reminded me of one of Bob’s favorite sayings: “We’re all multiple amphibians.” It’s a little strange in its redundancy, but I like it. It reminds me that as a teacher, I need to help students figure out how to negotiate a variety of discourses and rhetorical situations. This is especially true as the Internet keeps adding popular arenas in which to read and write. It also reminds me that it’s okay (and maybe even, hopefully, smart) to have my hands in a lot of disciplinary pies. The stickiness of all those pies makes me anxious sometimes.

Ohmann I enjoyed at first because he was so jovial and interesting with his history of “literacy,” and -then because he so quickly descended into unadulterated curmudgeondom. I could picture him, sitting there at his typewriter in 1985, ears steaming with rage the more he thought about how supermarket checkers were being made dumber by no longer having to add up grocery prices. His rage gave him some good lines. Viz.:

Technology, one might say, is itself a social process, saturated with power relations around it, continually reshaped according to some people’s intentions. (26)

Which makes me think of Foucault, and Marx, and the way all things are historically situated and shaped by power and moolah.


Graduates of MIT will get the challenging jobs; community college grads will be technicians; those who do no more than acquire basic skills and computer literacy in highs school will probably find the way to electronic workstations at McDonald’s. I see every reason to expect that the computer revolution, like other revolutions from the top down, will indeed expand the minds and the freedom of an elite, meanwhile facilitating the degradation of labor and the stratification of the workforce that have been hallmarks of monopoly capitalism from its onset. (28)

What about WSU grads? Actually, he’s probably right. I wonder what he’d say about U.S. corporations’ use of tech laborers overseas.

Then there was:

Apparently, eighty percent of home computers are used exclusively for games… I bet many of them will fall into disuse, like other new toys. (28)

This one gave me a chuckle. Thank God it hasn’t come true!

One more, from the bottom of the page I’ve been on and the next one (apparently, Ohmann was on a roll at this point):

And [computers’] other main use in the home, besides recreation, most likely will be to facilitate the marketing of still more commodities, as computerized shopping becomes a reality. (28-9)

Well, he was right about that one. Which reminds me… where’s that book for class that I ordered from Amazon?

I need to quit this and go play some of those soon-to-be-disused videogames with my wife – we tend to prefer Azeroth to Pullman (especially in January), so I guess Faigley was right about online life being more attractive than RL. But I did want to mention that I really liked the hopeful ending of Faigley’s piece, how he reassuringly said that we teachers of literacy will adapt to new types of communication by “teaching an increasingly fluid, multimedia literacy” (40-1) in the interests of democracy. Made me feel good.

1 comment:

kristin said...

Thanks for your thoughts on the readings. In reference to the NLG you say that "It also reminds me that it’s okay (and maybe even, hopefully, smart) to have my hands in a lot of disciplinary pies. The stickiness of all those pies makes me anxious sometimes." I do think the NLG appreciates the pies--at least in the knowledge that we all bring different knowledges (designs?) to bear when it comes to knowledge making (redesigning, I suppose). You might try to find ways that their language of design/redesign as well as their structure for available designs might help you understand your own pies, as well as the pies of your students. (thinking now of one of my favorite Pulp Fiction lines: "anytime of the day, is a good time for pie.")

I'm curious to hear what you think of the Wysocki, Johnson-Eilola piece given your thoughts on literacy thus far.

Thanks Chris.