http://www.flickr.com/photos/emagic/56206868/sizes/l/Why do I want to talk about transliteracy? Because I think it helps us move past the “Print” vs. “Electronic” qualitative debate. Because I think it helps us reclaim forms of communication we’ve dismissed in our traditional definition of literacy. But most importantly, because I think it serves our communities– it helps us focus back on what they need, in whatever form it takes, without being fixated on a content container. And I think this also serves libraries as well, the only way we can expect to survive is to identify ourselves with and stand up for our values that make us unique as a profession. If we identify ourselves with content delivery systems, especially with one specific type of content– the book, we will lose our relevancy.
So let’s back up and examine the definition of transliteracy, currently the Transliteracy Research Group considers the “working definition” to be, “the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks”.However, I think it’s more useful to look further into the TRG’s work and examine the concept more closely, as a “unifying perspective” that embraces all literacies. Sue Thomas, the founder of the TRG, describes Transliteracy as, “a new concept—which is both very old and brand new and may help us shed light on how we, as human beings, communicate. To do so, we are going to tear literacy away from its original association with the medium of written text and apply it as a term that can refer to any kind of medium.”
My God! What are we talking about, why would we do such a thing?
How often do we stop ourselves and ask, Why are we so hung up on just one literacy? Print… even electronic print is still words… once you know how to read and write, we consider you literate.
We’ve starting to accept the fact that content’s containers are changing, and that the next generations are used to a different kind of information intake
We know what this is doing to our brains, don’t we? It’s turning our finest minds into mush.
Today, our minds are like a sieve, the information goes in one ear and out the other…. We exist in “The Shallows” as Nick Carr calls it, and as book people, we just looooove to hear that validation that Google is ruining our ability to think, to learn.For shame, that someone would prefer to watch YouTube videos as a way to learn a subject, or that they can handle or even prefer the constant distraction of multiple media streamed at them constantly
We know better… we know only by learning to focus sustained attention on these things.. Books! Does one become truly literate, is one educated and not merely a shallow reactionary
The problem is, we’re not comparing the same things. Sustained reading and hyperlinked scanning are different behaviors, but because one differs from our traditional notions of learning– we are quick to suggest a difference in quality from one to the other. But there *are* multiple literacies, and there are new skills our next generations have developed, new habits they’ve grown up with, new associative meanings… The learning and communication behavior made possible by networked many to many media has produced a plethera of forms of communication not associated with what has been defined as traditional literacy.
Henry Jenkins in “Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture” reflects a definition of 21st century literacy that is closely compatible with Transliteracy, he states “The new literacies almost all involve social skills developed through collaboration and networking. These skills build on the foundation of traditional literacy, research skills, technical skills, and critical-analysis skills taught in the classroom.”
We’re in a new economy, an attention economy. It’s harder to compete in this marketplace on the quality of our information alone. Our information must be deliverable and usable in the forms our community members seek and we only have a few seconds to capture their attention
SO then what are we? Do we become totally focused on the digital, the technological tools? Do we try to replace the Geek Squad and give up what we are?
Or do we try to perform some awkward balancing act, performing new tricks but not really understanding them--
We loved it so much when we knew what literacy was, when we could elegantly define information in packages that neatly fit into our systems of cataloging
We often take a cynical attitude towards collaborative literacies, we’re not sure what’s really going on and besides….
AH HA! We say… we don’t want our libraries to look like this. A soulless place run by automation
We know that those who peddle us a beautiful vision of a technological utopia are in fact leading us down a dark path….
To a massive surveillance state. As we learned from George Orwell in his great BOOK, 1984, that these forms of media, of literacy, will punish human thought, love, compassion, kindness and leave us stark and naked in the world. We know that technology produces distopia, where speech is suppressed, our movements tracked, the notion of privacy abolished. A colonized, commercialized world in which the democratizing mission of public libraries may no longer have a place.
But what if we try to look at it *another* way. What if we question our notion of literacy as superior and question the concept of the book itself.I do a fair amount of traveling – I see eReaders in airplanes, coffee shops, etc. Talk to people and they say it’s the convenience – something to keep in mind when we when we consider what we must ask of our vendors
When we’re talking about ebooks– we’re talking about more than just plugging a new device in. Plugging in a book, so to speak, as you see here.When we look at eBooks and eReaders, we’re really starting to chip away at the package, at the content container itself– and blur the lines between books and other forms of media. I think this is one of the things that really disturbs people. We all have our preferences– many of us like the feel and smell of books in our hands. This makes a lot of sense, as we know that memory is associated with the sense, and powerfully with the sense of smell. So those who dismiss this as “silly” are ignoring a fundamental part of human experience.
That being said, we’re mostly talking about learned reactions and associations– not inherent qualities or experience. That is to say, the “is”ness of a book is not by definition tied to a particular smell and feel, and eBooks and eReaders expose us to this truth in a very stark way. For some, the convenience of instant purchases; carrying a smaller, light device, the ability to synchronize bookmarks, annotations, etc. is the associated and desirable experience of a book. Even further– hyperlinked reference, from dictionaries, to synonyms, or an encyclopedia create a product that is superior in its usefulness when compared to the traditional paper technology.http://radar.oreilly.com/2010/09/beyond-ebooks-publisher-as-api.html?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+oreilly%2Fradar%2Fatom+%28O%27Reilly+Radar%29
For generations who have grown up learning to read on tablets, taken an e-textbook to school, it’s more likely that when they hear us refer to paper-based books, they’ll look at it like this– a curiosity, but not necessarily very useful. However, just we adapted from scrolls to handmade monographs to the modern, printed book, we will find ways to adapt and adjust and remain as crucial as ever for our community. The enduring values of librarianship go beyond any particular content format. We just have to keep remembering this and identifying with our values as a profession, rather than indentifying ourselves with a particular medium.
And it’s not just because we’re being “forced” to change by circumstance… Rather, we are starting to realize that we’re the illerates
We are propagating a definition of literacy that is entirely Western-centric, that locks away meanings that do not fit on paper– or in print. Transliteracy allows us to remember lost context and content within our communications.
Are we really talking about the new, or the old? There are so many more aspects to communication than the written word-- the gesture, my tone of voice, body language, storytelling passed down with embellishments, connected to a particular geopgraphy… Some information doesn’t hold the same meaning in a new context–Transliteracy allows us to begin to examine, reunite other forms of literacies. To appreciate them where they are– and to develop new forms of communication, connection, that have more in common with these older forms of communication than the short time print has been in existence.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/36521979990@N01/2597734293/Now within our cultural context, I don’t suggest that we reverse our course and suddenly try to rush off to Hawaii and try to catalog the meanings of Hula, or create collections of Inca Quipu– the “writing” contained in intricate knots. In our context, because transliteracy contains both digital and media literacies– it makes sense for us to largely concentrate on the changes in our society which are producing the greatest changes in communication and collaborative behaviors.From earlier and earlier ages, our community members are growing up with expectations of ubituitious digital access
http://www.flickr.com/photos/86435488@N00/3922055137/Fueled by limitless bandwidth… they know they can’t get it at home, so they look to libraries to provide this for them– not understanding the limitations placed on us– cost, policies, etc.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/87585644@N00/4016373215/But in many cases, they have no where else to turn
http://www.flickr.com/photos/63335179@N00/3144083988/What other institution steps up bridge the digital divide? There are efforts in schools to help instill 21st century transliterate skills– but there exist few alternatives for those who have not grown up as digital natives
All is not lost, we can do so much both online and off… to support the needs of a transliterate population
So how can we support transliterate skills?http://www.flickr.com/photos/kristina06/3410503691/sizes/l/
Start simple – insert into every day service to your patrons. I was speaking yesterday with Kieran Hixson of the John C. Fremont library in Florence. We know that through Kieran’s work, the residents of Florence have very easy access to gaming – Wii, Play Station, etc… There are two kids that come to the library every day after school to play video games… They love Star Wars, and had requested a new Star Wars game. Until the game could arrive, he steered them to some Anime Star Wars…. The boys sped through that and came back asking for more…. Kieran then turned them on to Star Wars novels…. Mom came to thank Kieran – her kids turned off the TV and were reading aloud to each other…http://www.flickr.com/photos/mgmcinnis/2789885733/sizes/l/
http://www.flickr.com/photos/51035555243@N01/103363685/At my library, I’ve developed ‘Tech Office Hours’ – one-on-one sessions in which I answer any questions they have about computers, software, or internet. As you can see, the folks at the Genius Bar aren’t too happy. Libraries fill a need by making ourselves available to help members of the community with whatever questions might arise. It’s a lesson for both IT staff and our patrons. By having a greater direct understand of patron needs, it helps us design our services that much better—and the patron doesn’t have to pay $30 an hour for advice that may or may not be helpful. (I hate to disparage any business in particular, but I do have to say that I can’t count how many times I’ve had someone come in and say, “well I took it to the Geek Squad, but they didn’t tell me how to… <fill in the blank>.”
http://www.flickr.com/photos/40645538@N00/233228813/We must ask our IT departments to shift their focus from product orientation and the break-fix cycle to greater participation in library programs and training. Some great examples are Christopher Tracy at the Davenport Public Library in Iowa who teaches a class for Teens on how to hack the firmware on the Wii and install “homebrew” software. St. Louis Public Library has a “PTA” or Personal Technology Assistant program. CYberNavigators at Chicago Public Library
http://www.flickr.com/photos/28335533@N05/4501800803/I’d like to see more of a concerted effort to build and provide the tools and platforms for this activity. I don’t mean that we should replicate what I consider to be a mistake of the past—silos of content. But let’s look at models like Disqus and Intense Debate and work with other interested libraries and partners (LibraryThing springs to mind) to develop tools that are embeddable, cross-site sharing of discussion. Why not have online book groups that can be embedded in a patrons blog or include a whole cross section of libraries? Let’s continue to develop and share the tools we need– some great examples out there, Blyberg’s SOPAC, Scriblio, Colorado has “Reading Record” – SRP software developed by Eric Sissler at Westminster Public Library, which is available for free and used by nearly 20 other libraries, Ann Arbor is sharing their “GT System” for tracking game tournaments. As HowardRheingold says: “[w]hat we are witnessing today is [thus] the acceleration of a trend that has been building for thousands of years. When technologies like alphabets and Internets amplify the right cognitive or social capabilities, old trends take new twists and people build things that never could be built before.”
http://www.flickr.com/photos/82625518@N00/5228173/But IT can help take it further, less common are classes on how to spot and remove spyware; or understanding a wider variety of Internet protocols such as how, why, and when to use BitTorrent; What are the alternatives to iTunes? Library staff do an excellent job of sharing this information with each other online and through staff development, but I haven’t seen as many examples of it being offered as workshops or classes for the public. There are many people in our communities who don’t know where to begin to ask such questions and might not realize that this is something that they can come to the library to learn.IT can help lead the way though programs such as “Tech Competencies” that help to raise all ships throughout the organization. The more comfort and confidence our service staff have with technology—the more they’re able to assist a wider variety of customer needs
http://www.flickr.com/photos/40645538@N00/3387387075/Creativity is valued broadly, and success is associated with the ability to articulate using not only words, but also images and soundsTo that end IT and libraries can support each other in providing “Digital Storytelling” workshops or Podcasts for Teens (already a fixture in many libraries) or projects like Brian Myers from the Wilmette Public Library near Chicago who offers classes in video game development using tools like Scratch or Alice 2.0
http://www.flickr.com/photos/24029786@N00/3443631316/Developments in Educational Technology should be studied and applied in the library. IT must take a leadership role in this area—introducing and training library staff on new software, collaborating with the school districts and teachers directly to ensure that the software and technologies needed by the students is offered in the local library. Kids who don’t have ready access to a computer at home – or students that no longer have a library at school are at a distinct disadvantage to other students who do have these things if our libraries fail them in this regard.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/43132185@N00/167095727/A caveat is that we can’t allow the culture of “attract them to with the computers to bring them in for the *real* library stuff to persist.” We must change our thinking about E-books, Downloadable Audio, Gaming, and online content creation so that we recognize that these are ends of themselves. Many of us have already embraced this—but many of our staff and many more of our community members—parents, teachers, local government officials—have not embraced this. We’ve got to be ready to talk about why these experiences are valuable parts of literacy and not merely “fun” ways to trick kids into the library.
But in a world where reader devices, whether tablet or eReader, have become commonplace. Where children have grown up learning to read on a tablet screen, and where their schooling is done using eTextbooks– those generations will not grow up with the same assumptions and associations that we have with the concept of “book”.
http://www.flickr.com/photos/67953162@N00/3943777830/So again, I want to reiterate-- Libraries cannot allow schools to be consider themselves the only answer or worse—be supplanted by private businesses in supporting 21st transliterate. We can’t afford to be seen as “quaint”. We can’t afford for our collections to be collectables. What sets us apart are our values. Our dedication to access for all must continue to guide. Our lust for intellectual freedom. Our insistence to stand as a non-comercial space (physical or virtual) for the development, learning, creativity, of our communities must continue to be the thing that defines us.
We’ve got act from our heart. We are the heart of a community– not just its brain.The purpose of the Library is to preserve the integrity of civilization. We are the guardians of intellectual freedom. We have done our work since before there were books--and we will do it once books are no more.
Transliteracy: Building Bridges, Crossing Divides CAL 2010
Transliteracy: Building Bridges, Crossing Divides<br />Matt Hamilton<br />Anythink Tech Manager<br />Victoria Petersen<br />Technology Manager <br />at the Mancos Public Library<br />