Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Metaliteracy: “Liquidity” and “Fluidity” and the Game of Lifelong Learning

These are the thought-leaders I chose from among the works Prinsloo offered in his presentation

In Prinsloo’s Beta (β), critical literacy (as Freire observed) involves reading both the world and the word in a nonlinear fashion:

Reading is no longer a passive linear act in which we follow the author's lead from page to page, from idea to idea, from topic to topic. The nature of authority is that it dictates the direction of a text. In even the most basic hypertext document, the reader begins to have more control than with the printed book. The reader can make choices about which direction to go, paths to follow, and which to ignore or put off until later. In some hypertexts the reader is encouraged to contribute, to add nodes or comments to the existing text, or even to alter it. In this format, traditional definitions of the author are no longer valid, but must give way to a postmodern sense that text is created in both the writing and the reading. Even more, the acts of reading and writing become intellectually and physically intertwined. (Wahlstrom) [Note: bolding is mine.]

And, to return to Bourdieu’s playing field analogy discussed in my previous post, “The habitus is therefore a generative rather than a fixed system: a basis from which endless improvisations can derive; a 'practical mastery' of skills, routines, aptitudes and assumptions which leave the individual free to make (albeit limited) choices in the encounter with new environments or fields. As in a sport or jazz, in Bourdieu's favoured analogies, mastery of the rules or an instrument gives a 'feel for the game' which enables individuals to improvise in response to the circumstances of the moment.”[i] (Behler) [Note: underlining is mine.][ii]

I couldn’t find any Synonyms for the concept of Nonlinearity
Against this background, Prinsloo tries to make sense of the 21st century: “Our understanding of the scope and function of literacies is influenced by our understanding of the major discourses of the current (and future) age.” (slide 11) He then gives us James Martin’s view of the 21st century as potentially “The New Dark Age” and asks: “How does such a view of the world shape my view of the scope, definition and function of literacy?” (slide 12)

The Liquidity of Discourse: The Relativity of Truth and its Effect/Impact upon the Game

“What players can do, and where they can go during the game, depends on their field position. The actual physical condition of the field (whether it is wet, dry, well grassed or full of potholes), also has an effect on what players can do and this how the game is played” (Thompson, 2012, p. 66). (slide 18)

Pablo Picasso Girl Before a Mirror 1932 Oil on canvas

Relativity, a lithograph print by the Dutch artist M. C. Escher, first printed in December 1953
Being of a philosophical bent, I asked Paul to what extent one’s ‘location’ affected one’s perspective or perception – in other words, whether the Thompson quote alluded to “the relativity of truth”.[iii] In responding, Prinsloo admitted that there ARE some universal truths (like the Laws of Physics, which we can’t argue since they hold true from any perspective we might view them).

To further ‘muddy the field’ [and I know this is a terrible pun], Prinsloo introduced us to Bauman’s concept of liquid modernity.[iv] This was used by Area and Pessoa as the foundation for “a model for developing new literacies of citizenship in the digital society…. we contrast the 'solid' culture of the 19th and 20th centuries to the ‘liquid’ information culture of the 21st century in which Web 2.0 plays a fundamental role and affects many aspects of our culture.” (p.13)

Area and Pessoa review the main features of Web 2.0, which they see as having six major dimensions: as a universal library, global market, as a giant hypertext jigsaw puzzle, a public space for social communities, a territory for multimedia and audiovisual expression, and as a space for multiple virtual interactive environments. [include web 2.0 dimensions pic here] I love the way the authors refer to the overabundance of the universal library of the Web as “infoxication”![v]

Prinsloo attempts to align the competencies these dimensions require with those proposed by Mackey and Jacobson
and expands their Metaliteracy Wheel to include the competencies required in a Metaliterate environment.
My takeaway from Prinsloo’s presentation: Knowledge is no longer a ‘production line’, where each individual expands upon (or refines) the original concept; knowledge in the 21st century is developing into a canvas where ideas can be taken and transformed (by the cultural, philosophical, intellectual, and creative perspectives of the player [be s/he reader, listener, participant or ‘player’) into an array of thoughts, shared by the individual with whomever cares to ‘taste’ them and re-use, revise, or re-invent them into new artifacts that can, in turn, be sampled by others and re-used, revised, or re-invented in a vast array of formats and etc. 

So Lifelong Learning is a “Make (rather than Choose) Your Own Adventure”! And I, for one, am enjoying the adventure immensely!
You never can tell where your metaliterate adventure might lead!


Bauman, Zygmunt. "Education in Liquid Modernity." Review of Education, Pedagogy & Cultural Studies 27.4 (2005): 303-317. Education Source. Web. 9 Oct. 2013.

Behler, Constantin. "Habitus." CB's Glossary for Students. N.p., 27 Oct. 2001. Web. 11 Oct. 2013. <http://faculty.washington.edu/cbehler/glossary/habitus.html>

Freire, Paulo and Donaldo Macedo. 1987. Literacy: Reading the Word and the World. South Hadley, MA: Bergin & Garvey

"Linear." Roget's 21st Century Thesaurus, Third Edition. Philip Lief Group 2009. Web. 15 Oct. 2013. <http://thesaurus.com/browse/linear>.

Martin, James. The Meaning of The 21st Century: A Vital Blueprint for Ensuring Our Future. London, UK: Transworld Publishers, 2007. Print

Prinsloo, Paul. "Metaliteracy in beta: A Personal View from the South." SlideShare. 23 p., 7 Oct. 2013. Web. 11 Oct. 2013. <http://www.slideshare.net/prinsp/p-prinsloo-7-october2013-final>.

Thompson, Pat. "Field." Pierre Bourdieu: Key Concepts. Ed. Michael Grenfell. Durham, UK: Acumen Publishing, 2012. 65-82. Print.

Wahlstrom, Ralph. "Approaching The Paideia: an Advanced Composition Model - The Triad; The Paideia." N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Oct. 2013. <http://faculty.buffalostate.edu/wahlstrl/I-Search/frierereading.htm>.

[i] This leads me to wonder: At what point does our improvisation actually create a new game and/or playing field?

[ii] Our chat discussion looked at ideas of:
·         empowerment (or embodiment or encouragement),
·         the ability of Web 2.0 to give a voice to those who might NOT otherwise have a platform to express their ideas or opinions,
·         the lack of Internet access that still exists in places around the globe that keeps some people from being able to participate
·         the neutrality of the platform/hardware (but maybe not of the hosts) of the Web as a platform

[iii] Nazik Roufaiel commented: “I am not sure about reading the world! From which perspective, culture, economic, social, technology and infrastructure... Also how do we interpret what we read, do we do it from OUR perspective, or the writer’s perspective, or background?” I noted “It is philosophical and ties in with content creation by individual users and the evaluation of same by the 'reader'/'viewer' as well as the manipulation by re-posting”; to which Joyce McKnight responded “Key is to keep in mind that nothing is ever neutral.” Tor Loney added “Understanding what we are NOT seeing is also a key part of critical consciousness - both in the sense of knowing one's own personal blocks and also actual existing blocks or absences.” And David Brown summarized “I think understanding that everything is biased really brings ultimate understanding.”

[iv] Bauman discusses the impact of liquid modernity:..” society is being transformed by the passage from the ‘solid’ to the ‘liquid’ phases of modernity, in which all social forms melt faster than the new ones can be cast. They are not given enough time to solidify and cannot serve as the frame of reference for human actions and long-term life-strategies because their allegedly short life expectation undermines efforts to develop a strategy that would require the consistent fulfillment of a ‘life-project.’” (p.303)

[v] Since I am an avowed “informavore” (AKA ‘consumer of information’), do I, therefore, run the risk of becoming “infoxicated”? Maybe I already AM too ‘infoxicated’ to recognize the signs!


  1. I am very intrigued by the extent to which you analyze Prinsloo's thoughts and interpret metaliteracy. Reading the "world" and the "word" are two very completely concepts. When one reads the word, one just follows a direct path to what it said. When one read the world, all aspects are included such as: location, upbringing, background, social standing, and so on. Prinsloo brings up many interesting ideas that make sense.

  2. This analyzation of Prinsloo's ideas sincerely interests me and agrees with my viewing of how reading is much more than simply going from word to word. Examples of readers contributing to hypertexts read are others, such as myself, blogging about articles and such. I completely understand how an individual in this day and age cannot simply read information without expanding upon it and turning it into a new piece of information to share with whomever.

  3. Kate, thanks again for sharing your thoughts. In reading your reflection I remembered a very early article by William E Doll (see reference at the end of this comment) in which he juxtaposes a Newtonian view of the world (and of curriculum) with a view of the world as a complex, interdependent and dynamic ecology where the constant change between equilibrium and disequilibrium affect how we make sense of the world. I find his proposal for the role of educators particularly interesting as agents provocateurs - actively causing disequilibrium. One of the skills that we therefore need in an age of being "infoxicated" is dealing with ambiguity and conflicting "truths."

    Hope we can continue the conversation in future! Paul

    Doll, W.E. Jr. (1986) Prigogine: A new sense of order, a new curriculum, Theory Into
    Practice, 25:1, 10-16, DOI:10.1080/00405848609543192.