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Digital literacies and language learning

Jones, R. H. (2023) Digital literacies and language learning. In: Hinkel, Eli (ed.) Handbook of Practical Second Language Teaching and Learning. Routledge, New York, pp. 184-194. ISBN 9780367612481

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Over the past two decades, researchers interested in digital literacies and language learning have focused on a range of everyday digital practices, mostly of young people (e.g. Ito et al. 2010), in which learners’ ‘desire to build expressive capacity [is] driven by its use value as a resource for creating and maintaining social relationships’ (Thorne & Black, 2007: 148). These practices have included instant messaging (Jones, 2001), video-gaming (Gee, 2003, Steinkuehler, 2010; Thorne, 2008), mobile phone use (Warner, 2017), writing and sharing fan-fiction online (Black, 2008, 2009) and other practices of ‘fandom’ (Ito, 2011; Marsh, 2015), participation in online forums (Lam, 2000), chatrooms (Lam, 2004), social media sites (Alm, 2015; Pengrum, 2011), and online virtual worlds (Hafner, 2015; Steinkuler & Black, 2011), and the use of video and image sharing platforms such as YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat (Albawardi & Jones, 2020, Benson, 2015; Valdivia, 2021). The focus of such studies has typically been on how the affordances of digital media make possible forms of meaning making and social interaction that facilitate socialisation into the communicative practices of various online communities and affinity groups (Gee, 2004). At the same time, these scholars have also pointed out how the ways in which people draw upon and use semiotic resources and interact with others in digital environments challenges many assumptions about language learning and language use that dominate language and literacy classrooms, where the focus is often restricted to spoken and written modes, mono-lingual production and adherence to abstract rules. Online, they have observed, language use tends to be more messy: more multimodal, heteroglossic, plurilingual, and flexible. More recent approaches, however, have moved beyond this focus on technological affordances and forms of participation to consider the wider social, economic and political environments (Nichols & Stornaiuolo 2019) and the broader ecologies of communication (Tusting, 2017) in which these technologies and forms of participation are imbedded. This shift has largely come in response both to new technological developments (such as the rise of mobile technologies, augmented and virtual reality, big data analytics, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things) and to growing concerns about the economic and political forces that govern digital media — including the increasing power big platforms (such as Google and Facebook) have over our everyday communication and their dependence on data extraction and surveillance (2019) as business models — as well as the social consequences of these economic and political conditions, such as the proliferation of ‘fake news’, the rise of online hate speech and cyberbullying, and the role the internet plays in political polarisation and the marginalisation of particular groups. This recent critical turn in digital literacies (Darvin, 2017) is based on the realisation that a socially informed approach to literacy must also be a socially engaged approach, one which sees language learning and digital literacies as part of a larger process of learning how to be a literate citizen in a digital society. In this chapter I will review the main issues scholars interested in digital literacies and language learning have focused on, including multimodality and heteroglossia, connectivity and interactivity, and games and play. I will then consider more recent concerns that are driving work in this area such as mobility and materiality, translanguaging and transliteracies, and posthumanism and platform capitalism.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Literature and Languages > English Language and Applied Linguistics
ID Code:110274

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