Michele Knobel on Power and the Blogosphere

Lots of good things happening this week. Here’s another one, if you’re in/going to be in New York City. The Teachers College Center for Multiple Languages and Literacies is sponsoring a talk by Michele Knobel of Montclair St. University on The Medium and The Message: A Sociocultural Analysis of Power, Writing, and the Blogosphere.

From the lecture series announcement:
This presentation focuses on the burgeoning phenomenon of the “weblog ” as a writing-based act of cultural production, and argues that weblogs are a truly new literacy. This discussion is grounded in an analysis of textual production, identity, and power set within the context of a knowledge and information society. I argue that issues concerning the powerfulness and effectiveness of blogs are complex, and I explore power distribution in the blogosphere, which challenges conventional (school) wisdom on what constitutes “powerful writing.” While we should think primarily about the “powerfulness” and “effectiveness” of weblogs in terms of their creators’ diverse purposes, it is clear that some purposes, effectively realized, and an absolutely tiny cohort of bloggers wield a wildly disproportionate amount of material power and influence within the blogging community. Thus, the blogosphere has significant implications for education and claims concerning “powerful writing” in schools.

Saturday, December 11
11 am
Teachers College, Columbia U.
Milbank Chapel
525 W. 120th St.



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4 responses to “Michele Knobel on Power and the Blogosphere

  1. david

    what is the criteria for a “new literacy”?

  2. Sarah

    Wouldn’t you like to know?
    It’s still very much up for debate I think. As far as I gather, Michele talks about looking at new literacies in terms of chronologically new literacies, like fan fiction and manga, that don’t necessarily depend on new technologies but that are just coming to the attention of literacy researchers; and ontologically new literacies like IM chat language and blogs, literacies that are new in kind and tied to technology. And I think there’s a third category as well, but it’s escaping me at the moment. Anyway, she and Colin Lankshear elaborate on these in their book, New Literacies. I’ve got a copy if you want to peruse it.

  3. I just wish I could be in New York to hear Michelle.
    I think that issue of power is very important. There is no doubt in my mind about empowerment processes being in operation when a blogger starts to realise a sense of presence in the ‘blogosphere’. I think that at the moment those youngsters involved in such processes have no chance of realising this capital in their schools. And they need support in this. That is one type of divide. But the Digital Divides are in the plural however, and education does have an important role to play here, enabling more people to self publish and take part in on line social learning practices.

  4. Just thought I’d drop in to add my thoughts to what is already a very interesting discussion concerning new literacies. David asks what the criteria are for judging when is a literacy new–and this is exactly the point where it becomes clear that ‘new literacies’ are very much up for grabs conceptually and ontologically (i.e., the “stuff” of new literacies in relation to substantive definitions etc.). Colin Lanklshear and I have looked at the different ways in which ‘new literacies’ are talked about, and for some researchers new literacies always entail electronic media in some way. As Sarah points out, though, Colin and I are keen to keep the concept of ‘new literacy’ as open as possible in order to more fully recognise the kind of literacy practices young people (and older people) are engaging in within their everyday lives. So some of the criteria we use come from the distinctions Sarah references: those literacy practices that are both chronologically and ontologically new in the sense that even ten/twenty years ago these practices didn’t even exist in mainstream contexts (e.g., synchronous online communciation forms); or that are relatively chronologically new, but not necessarily new in kind/ontology (e.g., this is where manga, fanfic, zines, etc. come into the mix); and, third, those literacy practices that weren’t recognised as being such until they began to become more widely practiced (mostly within the past 50 years or less), and which don’t necessarily have anything to do with electronic media (e.g., critical literacy, media literacy, scenario planning, etc.). But any talk about ‘new literacies’ is always risky in lots of ways because people will argue over the newness of this and that, and of course, and more and more, as Don Leu (2000) puts it, we find we need to talk about ‘new literacies’ and ‘even newer literacies’ and ‘newest literacies’.

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