Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Multiple Literacies, CMC, and Language and Culture Learning. (Language Teaching & Learning)

Academic journal article Academic Exchange Quarterly

Multiple Literacies, CMC, and Language and Culture Learning. (Language Teaching & Learning)

Article excerpt

Abstract

This contribution explores ideas of multiple, culturally patterned communicative practices that draw jointly on speech and writing, using a research and theory-based approach to Iiteracies in second and foreign languages. The data samples are from learners' CMC written conversations in ESL and German (translated). Issues of power are examined that relate specifically to the silencing of certain aspects of the students' learning lives, as well as learners' willingness to let their voices interact with each other, shaping meaning and interpretation, without the constant aid or urging of the "voice of authority" in the teacher. The culture of learners' CMC conversations is observed to show how the relationships of power become complex and multiple in a CMC classroom. Viewing literacy as a collaborative effort in which oral and written language overlap also suggests the importance of the possibilities of CMC.

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In her essay on constructing curricula for foreign language learners and learning, Heidi Byrnes (1998) makes an eloquent call for linking foreign or second language studies "... to the larger intellectual enterprise of literacy .... "(p. 278) Byrnes goes on in her discussion to define, with Reder (1994), the research and theory-based approaches to literacy which view it as a "set of social cultural practices and its participants as a community of practice [where] ... many culturally patterned communicative practices draw jointly on speech and writing in their routine accomplishment." (Byrnes, 1998, (p. 279), quoting Reder, 1994). It is exactly these ideas of multiple, culturally patterned communicative practices that draw jointly on speech and writing that we will explore in more depth here. Our general contexts are computer mediated communication (CMC) in interdependent and collaborative language and culture learning environments.

Multiplicity and Dialogue

This paper is concerned with things "multiple," so our first task is to explore more closely the concepts of multiplicity and the related ideas surrounding dialogue. True dialogue implies an equality among participants, where there is not a goal of one party or group prevailing over the other. In dialogue of this kind, attentive listening to the other and a purposeful avoidance of privileging one's own ideas or contributions over the other's are salient. In dialogue, then, the goal is not necessarily to reach a conclusion; rather, it is to foster an environment where a multiplicity of views or opinion is valued and where communication remains possible.

Krippendorff (1997) takes the combined ideas of dialogue and multiplicity one step further by coining the term multilogue. "Multilogue describes the multiple social realities needed for ... polyphonic dialogue to not only take place but also enable theft participants to move out of burdensome if not oppressive relational practices" (Krippendorff, 1997, p. 61).

The emphasis here is on multiple voices, none of which are more or less privileged, be they academic, personal, subjective, anecdotal, empirical or something else. The tensions created by these multiple voices may not be resolved into any kind of consensus. While judgments can certainly be made about best fit for a particular purpose, or best harmony among a few of the several voices, no master voice or narrative is chosen. The acceptance of the idea that tension among the multiple voices in `multilogue' be maintained is also an important aspect of literacy for the learning space in a classroom as well as the research space of this discussion.

Palmer (1998) lists six paradoxes, or creative tensions, which hold opposites or multiple facets of a situation together to keep the charge and energy vital. Three of those paradoxes which most directly apply to the orientation we are adopting for both the learning and the research spaces of this project are: the space should invite the voice of the individual and the voice of the group; the space should honor the `little' stories of individuals and the `big' stories of the disciplines and tradition; the space should welcome both silence and speech (Palmer, 1998, p. …

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