Thursday, June 18, 2015

How Discourse and Creativity Express Meaning

Moving from literacy and ‘new literacies’ to Discourse.

In chapter one of New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Social Learning Ed by Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel. I learned about literacy as a historical concept and a social practice. I also learned about new literacies as ‘paradigmatic’ and ‘ontological’ (Lankshear & Knobel, 2011, p. 27). In chapter two I began to learn more about literacy as a social practice through Discourses and encoded texts.

“Hence, literacies are ‘socially recognized ways in which people generate, communicate, and negotiate meanings, as members of Discourses, through the medium of encoded texts.” 

(Lankshear & Knobel, 2011, p. 50).

As a social practice one can think of literacy as observable ‘things’ humans do with their bodies and minds to create meaning. Lankshear and Knobel cite the work of Scribner and Cole to describe these practices as “consisting of three components: technology, knowledge, and skills. (ibid,: 236)” (Lankshear & Knobel, 2011, p. 36). Being engaged in literacy also requires context to create meaning and purpose for the social practice to be ‘recognized.’ Meanings are negotiated by these practices and behaviors through encoded texts (Lankshear & Knobel, 2011, p. 36,37). What is most interesting about how literacy is defined in this sense is the idea of negotiated meaning and configurations in which literacies take shape. Lankshear and Knobel elaborate on this by providing examples. One’s interpretation of a recipe may differ from another, or one’s perspective on a Bible passage may differ from another’s based on meaning that is derived from being socialized into various sects of Christianity. (Lankshear & Knobel, 2011, p. 38).

Meaning is derived from texts as ‘articulation’ and ‘interpretation’ according to Gee cited in Lankshear and Knobel (Lankshear & Knobel, 2011, p. 41). Where as, articulation is the work itself ̶ a DS106 assignment from the ‘assignment bank’ for example. The interpretation may be derived from an audience by consuming the work. The various ways in which the work is interpreted is negotiated by the audience based on their personal socialization and Discourses which they belong to.

Discourse and Creativity

It is the various Discourses and ‘coordination’ that I found great value in the relationship to ‘the importance of creative arts education’ and creativity in general. Lankshear and Knobel refer to the works of Gee and describe coordinations as a way humans recognize themselves and others in distinctive ways. It’s a way of ‘thinking and feeling.’ (Lankshear & Knobel, 2011, p. 44) These coordinations thus inform the Discourses humans participate in. Whether it be a class, religious gathering, club, sport, multi-player online game, or any sort of Discourse, the individuals contribute their own culture and coordinations. The Discourses are the things that bring meaning to the world (Lankshear & Knobel, 2011, p. 45). 

When I think of creativity, I think of the many different and unique ways humans express meaning to the world. To quote the definition of creativity as Sir Ken Robinson defines it in the context of value in education,

“In fact, creativity ̶ which I define as the process of having original ideas that have value ̶ more often than not comes about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things.”

To Ken Robinson, these meanings are expressed through ‘interactions of different disciplines’ such as math, science, literature, art, dance, music, etc. These are just some of the Discourses students may be involved with in school. One might deduce, if the Discourses are limited students have less chance to be creative and express meaning in their own unique way, which of course is vital to creating a sense of value and meaning in the world.

As a citizen and a teacher in an American society that is struggling to keep up with the rest of the world through measure of education and standardized testing, I hope we can find new ways to create meaning through the many various sociocultural practices and Discourses we as citizens participate in. In other words, why would a country rich in culture seek value in a limited and unimaginative measure such as standardized testing? So much that we would limit our Discourses and disciplines, and reduce our ability to be creative, and perhaps be less equipped to participate effectively in ‘new literacies.’

"It's like education is an industrial process that can be improved just by having better data, and somewhere in the back of the mind of some policy makers is this idea that if we fine-tune it well enough, if we just get it right, it will all hum along perfectly into the future. It won't, and it never did."

Robinson, K. (2013, April). How to escape education's death valley.

Looking forward to the next chapter “‘New’ literacies: technologies and values,” I hope to gain a better understanding of these ‘new literacy values’ and in contrast, compare them to the current values of the educational system in America. Are we at odds with ourselves? Does lack of value in ‘new literacies’ in the educational system lead to less relevant education? Does this ‘boredom’ lead to dropouts? How can we keep up?


New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Social Learning Third Edition by Colin Lankshear and Michele Nobel. McGraw-Hill Education 2011.

Robinson, K. (2006, Feb). How Schools kill creativity.

Robinson, K. (2013, April). How to escape education's death valley.