Friday, October 11, 2013

Metaliteracy: Learning How to Play the Field

I hope the other participants in Dr. Paul Prinsloo’s Metaliteracy MOOC talk: “Metaliteracy in Beta” (7 October) came away as excited by his webinar’s insights/perspectives as I was.[i] The title of Prinsloo’s presentation is significant - I agree with his use of the concept Beta (β), a term implying prototype rather than final product. Many computer programs are released in beta and are modified based upon user experiences. So, too, with Metaliteracy, which is continuously evolving as technologies are introduced/modified and as user skills develop or as her information needs/environments change.

Life in Perpetual Beta[ii]

Discourse: Playing the game[iii]

According to Prinsloo, Metaliteracy deals with discourses not just static information. The discourses take place on a field “with different players, and different agendas, rules, power-relations, inclusion and exclusion… In order to be literate/ a player in the 21st century I need to understand the field, the game, and my position, and my skills… How does the field in which I find myself in, shape me? What/who shapes the field? Who are the (other) players in the field: Who are they? How come they are shapers? What are the rules? Who are the referees?”

On the playing field:

  • Players have set/ predetermined positions
  • Rules are predetermined
  • Players have different skills
  • What players can do is determined by their position on the field
  • The physical condition of the field impacts play
Although the image I’d have chosen doesn’t delineate the size of the field, it DOES show the initial placement of the members of both teams. And a most important person on the field: the referee!

[During the webinar, several of the participants engaged in a chat on the playing field metaphor and other aspects of the game that this metaphor brought to our minds.][iv]

Prinsloo’s Bourdieuian Game

As a player, I need to consider my HABITUS (the physical and intellectual 'me' that has been shaped by both my genetics and my experiences). In addition, my capabilities are shaped by the CAPITAL I do or do not have (including: Economic, Cultural, Social, Symbolic). Prinsloo summarizes:

In order to read the world, I therefore need to be able to map who shapes/shaped my world, the reasons for it, how the shape influences where I am and the choices I have, what the rules of my world are and who benefits from those rules (and my adherence) and how to disrupt and formulate alternative narratives, for myself and for others. (slide 10)[v]

“Field Theory” appears to have been discussed in class and I’ll defer to Shakira Jones’ blogpost to cover that perspective.

Another aspect in Pierre Bourdieu’s sociological/anthropological/philosophical [and, therefore, AKA  ‘Bourdieusian’) framework is HABITUS, the concept of 'a durable, transposable system of definitions' , socialized norms in our behavioral tendencies – including the way we tend to think, a product of the ‘interplay’ between our heritage and cultural structures AND our own free will or self-determination. [Was that too much in one mouthful?] The FIELD is, therefore, objective (existing outside of myself), while HABITUS is subjective – how I act upon the field. But, as the FIELD changes, as the rules of the game change, my HABITUS will, likewise, morph. Hopefully, this will allow me to play additional positions in the game. After all, I AM a lifelong learner! And, if I play well, I should gain additional CAPITAL (though, by virtue of being a librarian, it probably won’t be additional economic resources) but it will most certainly be in terms of knowledge and, hopefully, include social capital (by dint of new or improved social contacts and professional relationships) as well as some symbolic capital (everyone appreciates recognition!)

On Becoming a MVP (Most Valuable Player)

Lifelong Learning is our human response, representing our desire to become a valuable player. Learning is a team sport. We bring our strengths to the field. [I consider my strengths to be: teaching, a ‘team player’ attitude, and my love of ‘wordsmithing’ combined with a philosophical bent and a strong desire to realize a goal.] 

If I can develop strengths in other areas, I might be able to play more positions. But, whether or not I can do so, I could always serve as a coach. [She’s not represented in the diagrams above, but that role is essential if the team actually wants to score some goals and protect its own ‘red’ zone[vi]!]

At the same time, however, the environment (our FIELD is changing and so, too, are the rules of the game. But that will be the subject of a subsequent post on Freire’s “reading the world and the word” and Bauman’s “liquid modernity”.

[See the final installment on my takeaways from the webinar.]


Behler, Constantin. "Habitus." CB's Glossary for Students. N.p., 27 Oct. 2001. Web. 11 Oct. 2013. < >.

"Bourdieu and ‘Habitus’." Powercube: Understanding Power for Social Change. Participation, Power and Social Change team. Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, UK, n.d. Web. 11 Oct. 2013. <>.

Jones, Shakira. "Looking at Metaliteracy from a Field Theory Perspective." Metaliteracy. N.p., 10 Oct. 2013. Web. 11 Oct. 2013. <>.

Prinsloo, Paul. "Metaliteracy in beta: A personal view from the South." SlideShare. 23 p., 7 Oct. 2013. Web. 11 Oct. 2013. <>.

[i] For those of you who missed Prinsloo’s talk, you can find his slides and listen to the recording: Topic 3.2 A Global Perspective on Metaliteracy (7 October 2013).

[ii]Life in Perpetual Beta” is the tagline for Harold Jarche’s blog. Jarche, a member of the ITA (Internet Time Alliance) team and colleague of Jane Hart, is a PKM (Personal Knowledge Management) expert and also writes about CoPs (Communities of Practice).

[iii] An aside about discourse and how I play the game: During the webinar, there was rich dialogue/discussion/discourse in the chat window. [There may have been more on Twitter, but I still haven’t gotten ‘into’ it!] Chat is, however, linear – so during a webinar, you either need a very agile presenter who can keep an eye on the chat while, at the same time, presenting OR you need a facilitator, who can watch the chat and insert the questions or comments into appropriate places in the presentation. [You’ll notice that Paul DID respond to chat as he went along AND that Trudi Jacobson also facilitated by asking questions chatted by participants.] Since Chat is Linear, I found myself replaying the webinar recording so I could use CTRL-C to copy a particular comment I wanted to note in my blog post and then pasting it into my draft blog document. Comments on the chat appeared scattered as you scroll down the chat window; I’ll call webinar chat a form of discontinuous discourse.

[iv] To give you a sense of the non-linearity of the chat, along with some of the variables that could be added to Paul’s ‘on the playing field’ list [I repeat: This is not a continuous stream of chats – other messages were filtered out for the purpose of compiling a ‘thread’]:
12:36 PM
Kate Herzog
Also the spectators influence greatly!
12:37 PM
Tor Loney
A strange, interesting aspect of soccer: field size is not standardized, but instead within a set of parameters. Interesting connotations for the analogy.
12:37 PM
Joyce McKnight
Kate: Right...and the metaphor breaks down a bit because spectators can run onto the field and join the game!
12:40 PM
Kate Herzog
@ Joyce - a game with ever-changing rules because of the speed at which technologies develop
12:40 PM
Alice Goodwin-Davey
I wonder if Paul counts such "free-style" games such as street soccer, stick ball, etc....
12:41 PM
Joyce McKnight
I don't think the soccer metaphor quite handles the flexibility...
12:41 PM
cmarten  (Cathy Marten?)
Love this soccer (football) metaphor, right now I'm feeling very out of place on this field, but also extremely energized to be here.
12:42 PM
Alice Goodwin-Davey
And what about the role of the 'having fun' aspect?!
12:42 PM
Joyce McKnight
I guess it’s like a soccer field where you have to figure out where you are and what to do...feels about right for this metaliteracy business.
12:45 PM
Alice Goodwin-Davey
And sometimes the fun is a crucial part of the Interaction and discourse - unformed boundaries are where the creativity can happen!
You get the picture: this dialogue is taking place over a 10-minute span while Paul is talking and is interspersed with other chat entries on other topics!

[v] As Nicola Allain observed in her chat: “Habitus, Field, and Capital seem to be some of the meta-spaces surrounding metaliteracy and metacognition.” And, in answer to my chat question “But, if the world is getting smaller, shouldn’t the literacies be coming together as well?”, Tor Loney commented: “I do believe that literacies are merging – that is why to me the concept of metaliteracy is critical. It aligns and joins all literacies into one concept.” Alice Goodwin-Davey asked: “But isn’t part of the point that these multiple Literacies also give a voice to those who usually do NOT have the option!” and Nicola (whose dissertation is on the topic of empowerment) added: “Can we teach metaliteracy in ways that empower? I think that is where critical consciousness comes in.” Joyce McKnight observed: “I don’t think we empower… I agree with the idea of embody.”

[vi] Pardon my mixing the metaphors of a soccer game with a football game.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Kate - thank you so much for sharing your sense-making and further exploration of metaliteracy in beta. A number of (further) reflections:

    You state in your blog that the "most important person on the field [is] the referee." This triggered a number of thoughts - some rather irreverent :-). It is difficult to imagine what happens to the state of play when referees interpret the rules differently, or where the state of the field jeopardizes the quality of play (and refereeing. And I was also reflecting on the role of the crowd, cheering or jeering players - often not based on the quality of their play, but on issues of race, nationalism, and gender. Joyce McKnight's statement to what happens when spectators run onto the field seem to allude to the importance of how the game can be interrupted - and this raises some interesting thoughts about agency. There are also many examples where the spectators have made play impossible.

    So it is difficult to really (in my opinion) designate any one aspect of the "field" as more important as the other - it all depends on context. The more I think about field theory, the more I sense how useful it is to understand not only the discourses in higher education, but also with regard to personal agency (or lack of).

    Thanks so much for the engagement - it triggered a number of further thoughts. Paul