Beyond Babel: Multiliteracies in Digital Culture

Beyond Babel: Multiliteracies in Digital Culture

Monica Fantin
DOI: 10.4018/jdldc.2011010101
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This article highlights the importance of the concepts of media literacy, and digital and informational literacy to understand the multimodal meaning of multiliteracies and their interfaces. An analogy with Babel is used to understand the different ways in which this concept articulates the linguistic, visual, audio, spatial, and gestural dimensions in digital culture. In this framework, the question of convergence is highlighted in learning experiences undertaken in formal and informal contexts. To qualify the meaning of this learning for the subject, the article mentions the concept of personal literacy to locate the importance of subjectivity in the interactions that the multiliteracies offer. Finally, in an exercise of representation of the components of the multiliteracies, the article presents a diagram that highlights the importance of mediation and the forms of appropriation that express concepts and experiences in search of a transformative pedagogical practice, as an opportunity to understand the multiliteracies as a condition of dialog, expression and participation in the culture.
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Upon discussing the concepts of media literacy, digital literacy and information literacy and their specificities in the fields of education and communication (Fantin, 2010), we see that if all media require literacy and if all language needs to be appropriated, we can think of a broad concept of literacy. This concept should be updated according to the demands of social practice and different socio-cultural contexts, and should dialectically consider the micro and macro dimensions of these processes in their specificities and generalities. This leads us to think at the frontiers of the concepts, practices and uses of the multiliteracies based on their multiple faces – written, oral, visual, artistic, spatial, gestural and tactile modes of representation – which reveal their multimodal character and the interfaces articulated in various dimensions of languages.

Given the Babelic condition of human language and its potential for appropriation, this plural condition does not only signify the difference between languages, but a “multiplicity of languages within language, in any language, Therefore, any language is multiple, since one singular language is also an invention(...)” according to Larrosa (2004)

Without considering the merit of the discussion between tongue and language, this Babelized condition of language can also signify encounters, because beyond the confusion and catastrophe that the myth of Babel represents, the plurality of language, more than an excess, can imply different forms of dialog and mediation. Babel appears to run through any human phenomenon of communication and of construction of meanings and given the multiplicity of cultural practices, it is more than ever necessary to deal with its different forms of translation, interpretation and appropriation.

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