What is Scholarly Activity Anyway?

Disclaimer: This post is a little long. But since I know all 8 of you are my loyal readers, you will stay with me until the end.

I seem to be going back and forth between what’s ideal and what’s realistic when it comes to a multiliteracies approach to teaching and learning. We read a significant amount of theoretical background in support of a multiliteracies pedagogy, but it’s the practitioner that keeps grounding (maybe even pulling) me back to my classroom. While reading I make myriad notations about what is compelling and exciting, and then when it comes time for me to write my post, I go back to asking the question: What about this is realistically possible? I thought Banks’ pieces “Scratch”, “Grove”, and “Remix” were very intriguing and brought up a connection to culture that, to be honest, I haven’t really thought much about in relation to composing. I never really thought about composing from the perspective of a DJ; I don’t know much about DJing. While it was interesting, I did have to reign in my automatic judgmental reaction when the text describes a DJ taking the audience “there”. Again, I don’t know much about DJing to large crowds, so I am going to chalk it up to inexperience and lack of perspective.


This dango (Japanese for “closed form”) is located at Omaha’s Lauritzen Gardens.
Image found: http://www.beepbeep.org/4delos/archives/2011/06/jun-kaneko-at-lauritzen-garden.html

However, I will add that my husband and I for a long while disliked or rather didn’t “get” Jun Kaneko’s Dangos, which are very tall glazed ceramics shaped to look like a vases, but without the opening. We just didn’t get why they were so fabulous, expensive and revered. When my husband asked the art teacher with whom we teach about it, we learned that it isn’t the aesthetic of the final product that is extraordinary, but the process it takes to complete one. If I remember correctly, it takes years and years for the clay to solidify and harden, and the patience to create one that is remarkable. This helped sell me on enjoying this and understanding this as art. Perhaps it’s the same with DJing? The skill it requires to create a composition is more challenging than it seems to an outsider?

Banks’ pieces brought me back to the question of feasibility of a multiliteracies approach to my classroom. Academic culture (from early onsets of literacy to the post-secondary level) still predominantly favors print text. If I go back to the Nebraska State Standards for ELA, reading is a priority in most classrooms, especially the grades that are tested at the state level (for secondary level students are tested in reading at the 8th and 11th grade levels). If I am to ensure my students are proficient in reading print literacy (reading and writing in this mode), then how in my classroom can I begin to address other modes? It should be obvious by now that I am in support of incorporating multimodal composition in my teaching, but how am I to address deficiencies in students’ print literacy while at the same time introducing other forms of composing and getting students to be successful at it? It is this negotiation (or tug-of-war, it more often seems like) that I want to study for my dissertation.

Non-Sequitur, but not so Non-Sequitur: I did enjoy the phrase on page 3 of “Scratch” when the author states that “techniques carry stories, arguments, ways of viewing the world, that the techniques arrange the texts, that every text carries even more stories, arguments epistemologies.” This made me feel less pressure to have a mastered understanding of what multiliteracies is.

This naturally leads me to discuss Lauer’s “What’s in a Name?”. I was interested in her desire to take a step back and start by defining what are new/multi/modal/digital/media texts. I still take comfort in not having to have a definition set in stone, but a broad understanding of the various uses of each word. Lauer seemed to have a lot of the big names in multiliteracies, at least the ones we have come across in this class, but what was more energizing for me was that the site gave me the feeling that I could navigate through the text, imagery and audio recordings as I wanted. There were no numbers, only Part I and Part II, which seemed to be a natural requirement. I started by viewing and listening to the clips that I was interested in, based on the speaker and the title. I started with all of Anne Wysocki’s first, then moved to Cynthia Selfe’s (and then I don’t remember the order after that, probably not as deliberate). Other than that, I made a point to stop somewhere in the middle of going through the website to note that I did not annotate the text at all (couldn’t). I did take a few notes, but nothing much. What interests me is that I was allowed to work through the site with ease and I didn’t feel compelled to stop, highlight, and make marginal notes and comments to myself the way I usually do when I read printed text. My reading fluency was not interrupted by this natural task of annotating, which makes me wonder how often I get in my own way of reading (making sure I write down terms I would use to tag the document for Evernote and future retrieval, what I could put in my blog post, etc.)?

On to Ball’s “Review of Profession 2011” and James P. Purdy and Joyce R. Walker’s “Scholarship on the Move: A Rhetorical Analysis of Scholarly Activity in Digital Spaces”. Both of these pieces address attempts of legitimizing digital scholarship. Purdy and Walker’s piece discusses whether webtexts, blogs, discussion boards, and Twitter count as scholarship. The authors state: “Our discipline needs to pay attention to scholarly activity rather than certain scholarly forms to fully recognize the new work of composing” (emphasis original). I was drawn to two ideas in this text:

1. The misconception that the level of barrier between individual and scholarly work/forms is equal to the level of scholarship. For instance, if anyone has access to Twitter, and the discussions that unfold through this tool, then is this in relation as to how scholarly it will be perceived?

2. Texts do not automatically lose their scholarliness because they change medium. I recognize that I am initially drawn to print-based scholarship, but am very interested in creating what the author’s term digital scholarly work.

As always the more I read, the more I am inhaling references and bibliographies, and the more questions I have. I suppose that is the point, isn’t it?


6 thoughts on “What is Scholarly Activity Anyway?

  1. Bree,

    There are so many interesting ideas here! I’m especially fascinated by your process of reading Lauer’s piece–skipping around, not worrying about annotations, and focusing on what interests you. I’d like to try this strategy. Believe it or not, even with the fluidity of the layout, I still read through each link in a linear fashion…going down the line. I guess the rigid, “ordered” nature of printed text is still deeply ingrained in my mind. But I think as our media changes, our reading strategies need to change, too… it will be interesting to watch how these new strategies fit into the “academic” notions of reading espoused by state standards.


    • Like Katie,

      I am so interested in your discussion about how your reading practices shifted with these new media texts. Like you, I moved through the texts rather organically and fluidly and recursively. Strangely, though, I had this moment of panic because I felt like I wasn’t reading them “right” for a class. I didn’t have notes. I couldn’t quite restate everything that I had “read”/”listened to.” The ability to go back and re-encounter information changes the way that I interact with it. Going into tonight’s class, I honestly feel a little bit worried that I didn’t read these texts closely enough, that I wont be able to regurgitate information in the way I often feel called to in the classroom.

  2. I am constantly considering the practicality vs theory in a classroom, so I appreciate your post for that. I especially felt connected when you address the deficiencies in print literacies. I think it’s a strange time to teach in that there are so many expectations and ideas and theories and possibilities. But what does it all come down to? Can students move through the world and decipher and understand what is going on? Can they respond to what’s going on? What are the basics, then, that they need? The times, they are a-changin’, and students are certainly changing as well, so what changes will I need to make for myself and for my classrooms?

    • I like Caleb’s point. In teaching art, you would want to know why to appreciate Kaneko’s work and understand how it fits into art discourse and process. But, you wouldn’t necessarily expect your students to be able to make art that deconstructs art and that engages with art on the same level as Kaneko.

      So, I think it is important as teachers for us to understand the wonderful but intimidating world of digital literacy in regards to us and our classrooms. We can try to engage with it in a way that makes us better teachers in how we design and instruct and encourage students.

  3. I appreciate the practicality you consider in all of this. On the same bent as Cale, it is an odd time to teach in that what and how we teach is so malleable. I continually break down my planning by asking myself what students really need to know, and I have yet to ever land back on a finite answer.

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