31 SES 04 A, Multiliteracies and Multimodalities: Sociotechnical and Participative Perspectives on Information Creation and Consumption
The uses of mobile phones in childhood and the changes in the nature of literacy in children force researchers to reflect on the development of literacy in the 21st century from new perspectives (Burnett, 2017; Hollett & Ehret, 2017; Merchant, 2020). Research related to the “new mobilities paradigm” (Sheller & Urry, 2006) brings us closer to the forms of literacy that have emerged in the use of ICTs and that have transformed communication practices into new ways of social exclusion and inclusion (Burnett & Merchant, 2020).
Our research approaches the study of children's literacy and their engagement with everyday texts (such as those created through the mobile phone) from the “affect turn” perspective (Ehret & Leander, 2019). This approach to literacy advocates a dynamic approach in New Literacy Studies, based on a non-representational approach to affect (Ehret, 2018). Understanding literacy beyond the representational logic of language and approaching its analysis from an affect theory perspective (Bennett, 2010) has opened up the field of literacy research in childhood, where communication has been mediated through tools such as mobile phones and tablets.
The affect theory allows an approach to literacy processes in childhood based on how children relate to texts (as materialisations between language, culture and power) and to the tools that make this possible. The everyday acts of reading and writing in childhood are constructed through new tools such as mobile phones. This medium of communication produces discourses, that are relevant to children and that travel as discursive-material concepts (Ehret & Leander, 2019). Out-of-school literacy (through their embodied experiences) represents new assemblages that have affections (from the point of view of intensity and emergence) about which little is known (Jackson & Mazzei, 2016). Children's experience with the materialisation of texts (as it happens through mobile phones nowadays) exceeds the limits of the representational and, therefore, studying it requires a non-representational onto-epistemology that brings us closer to the complexity of the discursive-material phenomenon of childhood literacy (Barad, 2007; Lenz Taguchi, 2012). Affect theory looks at movement itself and its qualities. This approach looks out for the energy/intensity of contact when things come together as assemblage. This assemblage, described by Deleuze and Guattari (1987), is defined as “a coming-together of heterogeneous materials (bodies, things, signs)” and is emergent, as it “describes a sense of time that is open and unpredictable” (Ehret & Leander, 2019, p. 6).
Our research addresses the analysis of the non-representational elements of a literacy event that binds together part of the sociomaterial reality of communication that escapes from representation (MacLure, 2013). These elements that emerge in the intra-action of the agents are born as a “vibrant matter” (Bennett, 2010) that has the potential to affect and be affected. In this sense, Barad (2007) has underlined the relationship of codependency between the human and the non-human, where the non-human exerts its intensity with the human and its vibrations can evoke memories, create new senses of space or corporeizations that build new unexpected discourses (Lenz Taguchi, 2012).
Our research addresses the study of a digital literacy event from a New Materialism approach that takes place in a social context of violence. In this context, our research question is: RQ. How do children assemblage with mobile phones to construct a discourse on violence? The research participants were a group of 11–12-year-old boys and girls who were classmates and made up a community on social networks. Their school belongs to a peri-urban population in the province of Seville, located in a peripheral neighbourhood of said population, with very low socioeconomic and cultural indexes. These children’s families have not completed Primary Education and live in houses provided by the administration, that sometimes do not meet the minimum safety and health criteria. These families’ economic situation is defined by instability, which is why they have to resort to social assistance to cover their basic needs. In this context, personal relationships are often marked by violence. The use of force and intimidation is common in order to physically dominate the other and/or exercise power in all areas of social relationships. All children have a mobile phone that they always carry with them. Mobile phones are an agency with which they maintain a complex relationship of assemblage that allows them to construct discourses on violence. The researcher (Celia), who has studied the field of literacies since the New Literacies Studies, also participated in the assemblage with children and mobile phones. Celia accessed homes and school twice a week for two years. This closeness to the children allowed them to integrate her into their community and this gave her access to the discourses developed by these children on social networks (WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube). In addition, this researcher conducted observations and interviews at school, at the children's homes, and in their neighbourhood. These observations and interviews have been audio and video recorded. Finally, the analysis of data was based on the diffractive reading of data proposed by Barad (2007). This approach allows incorporating into discursive practices other elements that show the agency of the subject in the production of knowledge (Lenz Taguchi, 2012). This methodology allows to produce an account of the literacy event through the materializations of the assemblage between human and non-human agents that work together.
Our research has revealed how mobile phones are true agencies that affect, as a matter agency, children's discourse on violence. The relationship of children with mobile phones presents an assemblage that allows us to observe how children affect and are affected by these tools. In the framework of this literacy event, we have found how matter and discourse are in a shifting entanglement of relations. The way in which a community of children is configured is determined by the relationships of the human and non-human and by the way in which this new space and time is materialized (spacetimemattering). Mobile phones affect the construction of children's discourse and enable a policy of resistance to situations of violence they suffer because they are in a situation of weakness in their social context. The construction of the discourse through WhatsApp stories enables a process of transduction of the discourse on violence. The transduction of children's discourse, developed through multiple semiotic codes, does not hide in this research the relationship with other non-representational elements. This literacy event exemplifies how discourse mattering does not depend solely on semiotic elements, but on the assemblage of the human and non-human in a concrete context. The relationship between matter agency and human agency shows new affects on the construction of the discourse of violence.
Barad, K. (2007). Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning. Duke University Press. Bennett, J. (2010). Vibrant matter. A political ecology of things. Duke University Press. Burnett, C. (2017). The fluid materiality of tablets: examining ‘the iPad multiple’ in a primary classroom. In C. Burnett, G. Merchant, A. Simpson, & M. Walsh (Eds.), The case of the iPad. Mobile literacies in Education (pp. 15-30). Springer. Burnett, C. & Merchat, G. (2020). Undoing the digital. Sociomaterialism and literacy education. Routledge. Ehret, C. (2018). Propositions from affect theory for feeling literacy through the event. In D.E. Alvermann, N.J. Unrau, M. Sailors and R.B. Ruddell (Eds.), Theoretical models and processes of literacy (pp. 563-581). London: Routledge. Ehret, C. & Leander, K.M. (2019). Introduction. In K.M. Leander & C. Ehret (Eds.), Affect in literacy learning and teaching. Pedagogies, politics and coming to know (pp. 1-24). Routledge. Gregg, M. & Seigworth, G.J. (Eds.). (2010). The affect theory reader. Duke University Press. Hollett, T. & Ehret, C. (2017). Relational methodologies for mobile literacies: intra-action, rhythm, and atmosphere. In C. Burnett, G. Merchant, A. Simpson, & M. Walsh (Eds.), The case of the iPad. Mobile literacies in Education (pp. 227-244). Springer. Jackson, A.Y. & Mazzei, L.A. (2016). Thinking with an agentic assemblage in Posthuman Inquiry. In C.A. Taylor & C. Hughes (Eds.), Posthuman research practices in Education (pp. 93-107). Palgrave MacMillan. Lenz Taguchi, H. (2012). A diffractive and Deleuzian approach to analysing interview data. Feminist Theory, 13(3), 265-281. https://doi.org/10.1177/1464700112456001 MacLure, M. (2013). Researching without representation? Language and materiality in post-qualitative methodology. International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education, 26(6), 658-667. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09518398.2013.788755 Merchant, G. (2020). Reading with technology: the new normal. Education 3-13, 49(1), 96-106. https://doi.org/10.1080/03004279.2020.1824705 Sheller, M. & Urry, J. (2006). The new mobilities paradigm. Environment and Planning A, 38, 207-226. https://doi.org/10.1068/a37268
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