8 Visual and Multimodal Literacies
Literacy as we understand it today has been shaped by the technology of the printed book. In the middle of a shift from print-based to multimodal digital literacies, we can begin to see how new modes of reading and learning may be emerging.
Printed books have been around for over 500 years, so it is not surprising that we define "literacy" primarily in terms of the ability to read, understand, and remember printed texts. Books remain the gold standard by which other, newer forms of literacy are measured. Books do many things well: their form allows for thoughtful, detailed presentation of ideas and arguments. Reading a book can be like an extended, deep conversation with another person.
The Internet presents us with a new form of literacy. Words like information literacy, digital literacy, and others have been proposed as a way of describing the emerging forms of reading that combine printed text with static images, moving video, and other audiovisual media. For our purposes, the word multimodal literacy suggests the new hybrid combinations of written, visual, oral, and electronic modes of communication.
Perhaps it is inevitable that we will continue to make comparisons between new and old literacies. Books are highly valued--think about what it means when we say someone is "well read." Compare that with what we mean when we say that someone spends a lot of time "surfing the Web." Notice the embedded value system there? Print literacy = learnedness and deep knowledge. Digital literacy = distraction and superficial knowledge.
As you begin to do research and read sources for your case study on reading and literacy in the digital age, consider how your own experiences as a reader and learner have shaped your understanding of literacy. In particular, I want to prompt you to think about this question:
What new forms of learning and reading does digital technology make possible? What can web-based platforms (like this one!) do that printed books can't do? How might we build a new understanding of literacy to highlight those things?
Case Studies from Previous Students
Reading some of the case studies from students in previous classes can be a great way to get a diverse set of perspectives on digital and multimodal literacies. You will also find sources, author names, and references that may help you get started with your own research. I encourage you to learn from and build on the work of your past peers. One thing that the Internet does better than printed books is collaboration! See how your own work can enter into a kind of dialog with other students.
Reading and Learning Case Studies 2018
Planning and Developing Your Web-based Case Study
Assignment 7 is a planning document that will help you get organized as you begin work on Project 2. Planning and writing a web-based project is somewhat different from writing an academic essay, so the process will be adapted to suit the needs of this new medium. Read through the Assignment 7 template and watch the video below for additional help and suggestions.
Video: Planning and Developing Your Web-based Case Study
(Length: 16 mins.)
Watch this video for visual tour of an effective student case study from last year and for detailed instructions for Assignment 7.