What are the so called “new literacies”?

This question led me to think about what is literacy? Immediate thoughts sprung to mind about reading and writing and the underlying principles that enable one to be efficient at these within our society. And that is the key, within our society or the context in which they are used. Lankshear and Knobel (2011) discuss literacy and its connection to social and cultural contexts. When I think about travel and being immersed in another culture that relies on a language that is vastly different from my own I start to dig deep into the literacy skills that I have to be able to make sense of the environment. I begin to place high importance on decoding and interpretation of information to be able to participate. Being immersed in a language that is germanic in its roots is much easier for me to connect with rather than one that is not…. so how does this connect to literacy and new media and more specifically new literacies?

When looking at the Australian Curriculum it states that literacy in effect develops “students’ ability to interpret and create texts with appropriateness, accuracy, confidence, fluency and efficacy for learning in and out of school, and for participating in Australian life more generally. ”

Participation is central to new literacies. There is now a stage for all to perform on, contribute to and critique if one wishes. Web 2.0 provides a platform for its users to be participatory in every aspect of its usage. For the first time anyone can put on the cap of an author to an unknown or known audience using a range of tools. Understanding the tools, their purpose and intent, used is vital to ensure that that the message is understood, not to mention the audience and the general environment or culture that it sits within.

Participating within this environment means that you are not anonymous as you can be in the “real” world. Everything you do has your handle, nickname, or other form of identity connected to it. It soon becomes evident what your purpose is and the role you choose to hold within the space you chose to participate in. This awareness is directly connected to being literate here:

WoW from aram bartholl on Vimeo.

My thoughts tend toward new literacies being that of participatory in a digital world that has few boundaries (filters on who is accessing your work), unless you create them yourself. New literacies place greater importance on “old” literacies as the very nature of the instant and live platform that the internet provides consequently requires greater literacy efficiency. This includes the ability to transfer and use literacy skills across the many different platforms be it blogging, participating in creating zines, virtual worlds, gaming, twitter, facebook and youtube to name a few. Being more savvy is a requirement regarding text type, understanding purpose, form and audience along with knowing the protocols that exist. New literacies are directly connected with the creation of your web presence or identity.

In furthering my search and understanding of new literacies I stumbled across Howard Rheingold who points out that new literacies are:



Network know how

Critical consumption




Henry Jenkins et al, Confronting the Challenges of a Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. , pp.3-23.

Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel, New Literacies: Everyday Practices & Social Learning. Third Edition(Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2011). Part One: “New Literacies: Concepts and Theories”, pp.1-92

http://www.australiancurriculum.edu.au/English/Literacy viewed 1/4/12

http://www.myread.org/what.htm  viewed 4/4/12



About dbatty1

I'm a teacher who loves to dabble with a range of technologies that enhance learning. At the moment I have taken a sea change delving deeper into social media. FTW
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