Academic journal article Research in the Teaching of English

Scaling as a Literacy Activity: Mobility and Educational Inequality in an Age of Global Connectivity

Academic journal article Research in the Teaching of English

Scaling as a Literacy Activity: Mobility and Educational Inequality in an Age of Global Connectivity

Article excerpt

A central concern of contemporary literacy studies has been rethinking relationships between movement, context, and space (Brandt & Clinton, 2002; ComptonLilly, 2014; Leander & Sheehy, 2004), particularly in the pursuit of understanding the challenges of globalization. Recently, RTE has called for research "addressing what it means to be a teacher and learner of English in today's global and linked classrooms" (Cushman & Juzwik, 2013, p. 5) and committed an entire issue to the subject of "Movement of Literacies Across, Within, and Around" in hopes of capturing the spirit of an era when the rapid circulation of texts, languages, and people is no longer the exception but the rule. This renewed concern with literacy "mobilities" takes on prominence with regard to discourses of global connectivity for education, with scholars and practitioners calling for "a new community of teachers that could and would work, communicate, and exchange physically and virtually across national and regional boundaries" (Luke, 2004, p. 1438) and, in doing so, reconceptualizing the work of English educators. We ask, within all these metaphors-movement, mobilities, connectivity, globalization-how do we account for issues of educational inequality? How do we examine movement in a way that captures fluidity but equally the contradictions and gateways that restrict, sift, and marginalize?

To examine the complexities of the movement of texts and people in an era of global connectivity, we offer the metaphor of scales, and suggest that conceptualizing scaling as literate activity provides insight into how people's literacy practices become differentially valued across time and space-and how people actively engage in, take up, and challenge those valuation processes through their everyday literacy engagements. The process of valuation and its subsequent repurposing in interaction represent what Appadurai (2002) calls "globalization from below," the way that people from the seeming periphery of global centers take up, interact with, and position themselves with regard to the discourses, tools, and literacies that come from "outside" (cf. Brandt & Clinton, 2002). In examining the literacy dimensions of such globalization from below, we draw on recent work theorizing scale in sociolinguistics (e.g., Blommaert, 2007, 2015) and social geography (e.g., Haarstad & Fløysand, 2007) and situate it in relation to New Literacy Studies scholarship that frames literacies as complex, ideologically saturated, and historically rooted social practices (e.g., Barton, Hamilton, & Ivanic, 1999; Street, 2003).

We argue that the notion of scale offers literacy researchers a flexible conceptual tool with which to examine educational inequities by capturing how movement and mobility are not simple processes of relocation; rather, literacy practices and texts are always dynamically constructed in relation to hierarchical orders of varying spatial and temporal dimensions. To illustrate the robustness of this idea, we engage in a scalar analysis of teachers' cross-cultural collaborations as they produced and layered together categories of space and time (e.g., local, national, global) through routine literacy engagements. Focusing on how teachers in South Africa and India coordinated with their Western colleagues, we trace the ways hierarchies and power asymmetries became instantiated in the daily work/ labor of producing texts and contexts, and how differentially accessible resources bore multiple, simultaneous traces of that scalar work. We discuss how resources take on meaning by way of a confluence of multiple temporal and spatial scales and demonstrate not just what is lost in the movement of texts across scales, but equally what is gained-specifically, how scaling can be a strategic act.

Our aim is to contribute to contemporary conversations around issues of mobility in literacy research by offering a conception of scales in order to understand the interaction between literacy practices and social processes (Stornaiuolo & LeBlanc, 2014). …

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