Metaliteracy in beta: A personal view from the South
Metaliteracy in beta:
A personal view from
By Dr Paul Prinsloo
Directorate: Curriculum and Learning Development
University of South Africa (Unisa)
Twitter profile: @14prinsp
Metaliteracy in beta – the storyline…
Quick recap of
In order to read
the word, I need
to read the world
Making sense of
some of the
discourses of the
21st century world
In order to be
literate in a
(un)flat world I
need to know…
beta – a proposal
• I don’t claim to present a global view, not even a “view from
the South, ” or an “African” perspective
• My views have been shaped by my location – not only as
part of the developing world, but from a continent that is
(often) portrayed as a dark, and “failed” continent
• Africa, as part of the “global south,” increasingly contests
historical descriptions and definitions and exclusions from
decisions that (in)directly affect us
• My views have been shaped and continue to be shaped by a
number of authors and works, such as …
Metaliteracy in beta: discourses not
Information is never neutral and always in service of
or used to contest dominant discourses.
We therefore need to understand information as field
with different players, and different
agendas, rules, power-relations, inclusion and
Metaliteracy (Mackey & Jacobson, 2011)
Image retrieved from retrieved from http://metaliteracy.cdlprojects.com/what.htm
type and delivery
feedback as active
Create a context
content in multiple
Share information in
Mackey, T.P., & Jacobson, T.E. (2011). Reframing
information literacy as metaliteracy. College &
Research Libraries, 72(1), 62-78.
Web 2.0 is a huge information
THE UNIVERSAL LIBRARY
Web 2.0 is a jigsaw puzzle of
Web 2.0 is a vast souk or
market of digital services and
THE GLOBAL MARKET
Web 2.0 is a stage for
MULTIMEDIA & AUDIOVISUAL
Web 2.0 is a public space or
assembly of human interaction
Web 2.0 is an artificial
ecosystem for human
Area, M., & Pessoa, T. (2012). From the solid to the liquid: New literacies for the cultural changes of Web 2.0. Communicar. Scientific
Journal of Media Communication. DOI: 10.3916/C38-2011-02-01. http://www.revistacomunicar.com/pdf/preprint/38/En-01-PRE-
From the solid to the liquid: New literacies for the cultural
changes of Web 2.0
Liquid metaliteracy (Area & Pessoa, 2012; Mackey &
Mackey & Jacobson (2011) Area & Pessoa (2012)
Understand format type and delivery mode Instrumental competence: “technical control over
each technology and its logical use procedures”
Evaluate user feedback as active researcher Cognitive-intellectual competence: “the
acquisition of specific cognitive knowledge and
skills that enable the subject to search for, select,
analyze, interpret and recreate the vast amount of
information to which he (sic) has access *to+…”
Create a context for user-generated information
Evaluate dynamic content critically Socio-communicative competence: “the
development of a set of skills related to the
creation of various text types… and their
dissemination in different languages”
Produce original content in multiple media
Understand personal privacy, information ethics
and intellectual property issues
Axiological competence: “referring to the
awareness that ICT are not aseptic or neutral from
the social viewpoint but exert a significant
influence on the cultural and political
environment of our society…”
Share information in participatory environments
Critical consciousness as the foundation for metaliteracy as
Understand format type and
Evaluate user feedback as
Create a context for user-
Evaluate dynamic content
Produce original content in
multiple media formats
privacy, information ethics
and intellectual property
Share information in
“The act of learning to read and write start from a very comprehensive
understanding of the act of reading the world, something which humans
do before reading the words” (Freire, 1989, p. xvii; emphasis added)
“To be illiterate, for Freire, was not only the lack of skills of reading or
writing; it was to feel powerless and dependent in a much more general
way …” (Burbules & Berk, 1999, p. 52)
In order to read the world, I therefore need to be able to map who
shapes/shaped my world, the reasons for it, how the shape influences
where I am and the choices I have, what the rules of my world are and
who benefits from those rules (and my adherence) and how to disrupt
and formulate alternative narratives, for myself and for others.
Critical consciousness as the foundation for metaliteracy
Making sense of the 21st century
Our understanding of the scope and function of
literacies is influenced by our understanding of the
major discourses of the current (and future) age
“A global cocktail of intolerable poverty and
outrageous wealth, starvation, mass terrorism with
nuclear/biological weapons, world war, deliberate
pandemics and religious insanity, might plunge
humanity into a worldwide pattern of unending
hatred and violence – a new Dark Age” (Martin, 2007,
A new dark age?
How does such a view of the world shape my view of the
scope, definition and function of literacy?
Rampant consumerism and
“From cradle to coffin we are
trained and drilled to treat shops
as pharmacies filled with drugs to
cure or at least mitigate all the
illnesses and afflictions in our
lives…” (Bauman, 2012, p. 89)
• The myth of economic growth
• Downward mobility
Local and global (dis)connections
Finding local answers to globally
produced problems? (Bauman,
1998; Bauman, 2012; Castells,
A networked age
Not everyone is included, but
everyone is affected… “Networks
are created not just to
communicate, but also to gain
position, to outcommunicate”
(Geoff Mulgan in Castells, 2009, p. 26)
Personal privacy and state
• Collection and use of personal
• Crusades, jihads and the clash
• “Ubiquitous mixophobia”
(Bauman, 2012, p. 63) –
Growth of interdictory spaces
& gated communities
(Bauman, 2012, p. 68)….
Image retrieved from http://www.allstaractivities.com/images/soccer-positions.gif
In order to be literate/ a player in the 21st century I
need to understand the field, the game, and my
position, and my skills
• Boundaried site
• Players have set/
• Rules are
• Players have different
• What players can do is
determined by their
position on the field
• The physical condition
of the field impacts play
Image retrieved from http://envirolaw.com/wp-
What type of “capital” I
have or don’t have
HABITUS: Who and how
my past shaped/shapes
• Genetic makeup
• Socio-economic circumstances
• Parental background
• Geopolitical location
• Educational experiences
• The choices I made in the
• My dispositions
These are durable and
transposable (Maton, 2012)
In order to be literate in a networked and (un)flat world
I need to know…
How does the field in which I
find myself in, shape me?
What/who shapes the field?
Who are the (other) players
in the field:
• Who are they?
• How come they are
• What are the rules?
• Who are the referees?
Looking at metaliteracy from a field theory (Bourdieu)
The “field” is not a benign, pastoral space, but rather le champ – a battle
field, where players have set positions, predetermined paces, specific rules which
novice players must learn together with basic skills.
“What players can do, and where they can go during the game, depends on their
field position. The actual physical condition of the field (whether it is
wet, dry, well grassed or full of potholes), also has an effect on what players can
do and this how the game is played” (Thompson, 2012, p. 66).
[(habitus)(capital)] + field = practice/agency
(Maton, 2012, p. 50)
A field theory perspective on agency
My dispositions - how
my past and present (and
thereof) shaped and still
The capital that I have
acquired in the process
The field – the
context in which I
find myself in. This
is not a neutral
is, itself, shaped by
My practice/agency and my
We are not “pre-programmed automatons acting out the
implications of our upbringings” (Maton, 2012, p. 50).
“…where we are in life in any one moment [is+… the result of numberless events
in the past that shaped our path” (Maton, 2012, p. 51).
Literacy and agency is understanding that the choices we have in any particular
moment and time in a specific context, are shaped by the positions we have in
that particular social field at that moment in time.
Complicating matters is the fact that the context we find ourselves in (at that
particular moment in time), has itself been shaped by and is shaped by other
contexts, individuals in an evolving power play.
Being literate in a networked and (un)flat world it is
important to know…
Image retrieved from
1. We need to understand the emergence of social media in the broader
context of political, economic, social, technological, legal and
environmental discourses and contestations.
2. It is crucial to understand who produces (and consumes) information,
for what purpose, what claims are made, and who/what
supports/excludes the producers and claims
3. The production, reproduction, sharing, remixing of information is not a
neutral act but flows from and often perpetuates existing discourses
4. The need for critical and self-reflective agency has never been greater,
formulating alternative narratives, disrupting normative discourses and
asking new questions
Thank you. Ke a leboga.
Dr Paul Prinsloo
Directorate for Curriculum and Learning Development (DCLD)
P O Box 392
Unisa, 0003, Republic of South Africa
Personal blog: http://opendistanceteachingandlearning.wordpress.com
Twitter profile: @14prinsp
+27 (0) 12 429 3683 (office)
+27 (0) 12 429 3551 (fax)
+27 (0) 82 3954 113 (mobile)
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Communicar. Scientific Journal of Media Communication. DOI: 10.3916/C38-2011-02-01.
Bauman, Z. (1998). Globalization. The human consequences. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
Bauman, Z. (2012a). On education. Conversations with Riccardo Mazzeo. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
Bauman, Z. (2012b). Collateral damage. Social inequalities in a global age. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.
Burbules, N.C. & Berk, R. (1999). Critical thinking and critical pedagogy: relations, differences and limits, in Critical
theories in education: changing the terrains of knowledge and politics, edited by T.S. Popkewitz & L. Fendler.
New York: Routledge, pp. 45—66.
Castells, M (2009). Communication power. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press.
Freire, P. (1973). Pedagogy of the oppressed. Harmondsworth: Penguin.
Freire, P. (1989). Learning to question: a pedagogy of liberation. New York: Continuum.
Ghemawat, P. (2011). World 3.0. Global prosperity and how to achieve it. Boston: Harvard Business School
Mackey, T.P., & Jacobson, T.E. (2011). Reframing information literacy as metaliteracy. College & Research
Libraries, 72(1), 62-78.
Martin, J. (2007). The meaning of the 21st century. A vital blueprint for ensuring our future. London, UK: Transworld
Maton, K. (2012). Habitus. In Michael Grenfell (Ed.), Pierre Bourdieu. Key concepts. Durham, UK : Acumen
Publishing, pp. 48—64.
Mayer-Schönberger, V. (2009). Delete. The virtue of forgetting in the digital age. Princeton: Princeton University
Thompson, P. (2012). Field. In Michael Grenfell (Ed.), Pierre Bourdieu. Key concepts. Durham, UK : Acumen
Publishing, pp. 65—82.