Mobiles, Movement, and Meaning-Making: A Model of Mobile Literacy

Mobiles, Movement, and Meaning-Making: A Model of Mobile Literacy

Calvin Taylor (John Monash Science School, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-6166-0.ch001


Drawing on ethnographic research conducted with adolescents at a rural Australian high school, this chapter constructs a theoretical model for “mobile literacy.” Mobile technologies, and their increasing technological capabilities, present emerging challenges for definitions and understandings of what precisely constitutes “literate practice,” challenges which have not been wholly resolved though more disparate discussions of “electronically mediated communication.” Such an understanding is important in order to develop approaches that effectively integrate mobile technologies into formal educational contexts. The model constructed in this chapter draws on different theoretical traditions where literacy is concerned, combining these with a sociological model developed by Pierre Bourdieu, to draw out the importance of the social dimension in mobile technology use. The ethnographic methodology results in findings that reveal the structuring impact of economic, social, cultural, and symbolic resources associated with these devices. Far from revealing that mobiles free us from a consideration of “place,” this research demonstrates that to be “mobile literate” is to be even more finely attuned to the contextual factors for any mobile technology use.
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The Challenge Of Mobile Technologies

They’re everywhere: the increasing ubiquity and pervasiveness of mobile technologies throughout increasing societies (regardless of geographic or socioeconomic) has resulted in changes to the structure of social, cultural and interpersonal communication practices.

Across the vast swathe of research and literature addressing the impact of mobile technologies, a central assertion underpins the drive to understand: the unprecedented rapidity with which mobile technologies have disseminated widely throughout the world (see Katz & Aakhus, 2002; Ling & Pedersen, 2005). The significance for research and scholarship is the way that this globally-popular behaviour is manifested at the local level. As Castells, Fernández-Ardèvol, Qui and Sey point out in their global survey of wireless communication: ‘Wireless communication has diffused faster than any other communication technology in history. But it has done so differentially’ (2007, p. 7). Whilst it is clear that globally, mobile communication technologies have had a pervasive impact – across societies as diverse as Europe, Africa and Oceania – variation at the local level paints a slightly different approach to adoption and domestication in each case.

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