(Im)Materialising Literacies

Authored by: Cathy Burnett

The Routledge Handbook of Literacy Studies

Print publication date:  May  2015
Online publication date:  May  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415816243
eBook ISBN: 9781315717647
Adobe ISBN: 9781317510611


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In investigating children and young people’s interactions with digital media, literacy researchers have highlighted the importance of seeing such interactions as embedded in everyday lives. Rather than focusing on the distinctiveness of activity online or onscreen, relationships between online and offline activity have been seen as central to the way people make meaning from digital media and to what digital media mean to their lives (Miller and Slater 2000). This chapter argues that, in analysing meaning-making around digital texts, one of the things we need to do is to focus on the complex relationships between materialities and immaterialities. ‘Materialities’, as defined here, relate to the stuff which is physically present as we make meanings, such as bodies, screens, artefacts and texts. ‘Immaterialities’ are those things that are materially absent or intangible but central to meaning-making: associations, memories, feelings and imaginings as well as all the events and processes that have led up to the production of the things that are physically present. In this chapter, I suggest that we need to pay attention to relationships between materialities and immaterialities when researching literacies and that this can help us see meaning-making as complex and multiple. Following work with colleagues (Burnett et al. 2014), I use the term ‘(im)materialities’ to capture the way that the material and immaterial are always enmeshed with each other.

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