Virtual smell, transliterate world

by | Nov 23, 2013 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

By Suzana Sukovic

The smell of the
latest muffin recipe from my Mufficious group is emitting from my phone screen so
deliciously – you can almost bite into that picture. I’ll certainly try the
recipe tonight. But I better check the
minutes of our last meeting! My project group is meeting in the library in ten
minutes. Today we have an older local resident chosen from our people database coming
to talk with us. I am looking forward to meeting him as well as Hildur from
Iceland who is joining us for the first time. Her preservation work sounds so
interesting. Misha will pop in towards the end of the meeting with some
fantastic wood samples he found on the ‘Almost real’ (it’s funny Misha is still called ‘librarian’ – the last time he touched
a book was a year ago, he said).  Such a
nice mix of languages in our group – always a good time to practise my Chinese
and check the latest translation software. My Chinese is getting so much better
since I can listen to Wong and look at the translation in a real conversation. I’ll
stick with the voiceover for Maria. This new app promises to have Maria’s
Spanish translated in the most believable English voiceover for me. I can catch
up with Karen after the meeting. Maybe we can try that new Mayan chocolate
drink in the library.  

Nuno de Matos calligraphy works

In this snippet of a future
scenario, a multiliterate person processes a range of digital and analogue
inputs as she goes through her day. Multisensory experiences, collaboration, a
range of media and shifting cultural contexts are all part of everyday living.
There is a growing recognition in different professional circles that people
will increasingly require an ability to work in multiple contexts with a
variety of media and, most importantly, in collaboration. A proliferation of literacy
models in recent years arises from a need to capture the complexity of skills
required in new environments. A number of LIS authors feel that a
well-established and important framework of information literacy needs to explicitly
include skills relevant for online collaboration and communication.

Transliteracy has become a bit of a buzz word among LIS professionals in the
recent years. Alan Liu, an English Professor, initiated the idea of transliteracies at the University of
California in relation to online reading (Transliteracies Project). The concept was adopted and taken
into a new direction by Sue Thomas, at the time Professor of New Media at De
Montfort University in Leicester. Thomas started the Production and Research in
Transliteracy (PART) group in 2006. The group discussions resulted in the
seminal paper Transliteracy: crossingdivides [i]
a year later. In the article, the concept of transliteracy was presented as ‘a unifying perspective on what it
means to be literate in the twenty–first century’ and defined as ‘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’ (What is transliteracy?,
para 1). The behaviour is old, but it has become particularly complex and
important in new media environments with collaboration as its most prominent
feature. The authors consider ‘media literacy’ and the space where different
experiences and formats meet and mix. In order to understand new cultural
production, a transliterate analysis is needed to consider the usual ‘how’ and
‘why’ as well as
…the shift in emphasis from static monologue to dynamic dialogue
suggested by participatory narratives; the practices and politics of
collaboration, particularly when many geographically and linguistically spread
authors collaborate simultaneously; and the existence of a “group creativity”
or “intelligence”, perhaps as an emergent property of individual creativities
or intelligences (Networking the book,
para 6).

An ability to shift between
different modes and media is central to the concept of transliteracy, which helps us see new behaviours and practices holistically. The authors see transliteracy as a work in progress and conclude
the article with an invitation to join the
discussions. LIS professionals have responded enthusiastically and extended
the discussions in our own field. The hashtag #transliteracy is a good way to join some of the discussions on

Metaliteracy is another
closely-related concept, promoted by Thomas P. Mackey and Trudi E. Jacobson. In
their paper Reframing information
literacy as a metaliteracy[ii],
Mackey and Jacobson discuss a need to extend the information literacy framework to explicitly address skills needed
for collaborative online environments. A range of ‘literacy frameworks’ such as
information, media, digital and visual literacies capture various skill sets. The
authors argue
… that a comprehensive understanding of information and related
competencies are central to these literacy concepts. This approach is grounded
in the idea that emerging technologies are inherently different from print and
require active engagement with multiple information formats through different
media modalities

Information literacy is central to the understanding of metaliteracy, which ‘provides the integral foundation for
additional literacy types, recognizing social media environments as active
collaborative spaces for accessing and sharing one’s findings’ (p. 70). The
authors analyse some specific information skills needed for evaluation, use,
creation and publication online. They acknowledge and briefly describe the
concept of transliteracy, but they
don’t consider the points of difference. It seems that the distinction lies in
a focus rather than the content. Transliteracy and metaliteracy both arise
from the realisation that current and future information environments require
fluency in skills and a unifying perspective in understanding these skills.

[i] Transliteracy:
Crossing divides by Sue Thomas, Chris Joseph, Jess Laccetti, Bruce Mason, Simon
Mills, Simon Perril, and Kate Pullinger. 
First Monday, Volume 12 Number 12 – 3 December 2007

Reframing information literacy as a metaliteracy by Thomas P.Mackey and Trudi
E.Jacobson College & Research
72.1 (January 2011), 62-78

A version of this article appeared in InCite, Nov-Dec 2013


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