Born, with your back to the god who/picked you up by your puppy scruff/angry at who? Me?/you better back up fool/and be grateful that the real me’s always hiding from you
So this time it wasn’t Comcast. This time I just fell asleep at the wheel. Sorry—it happens. But I did write my entry for last night today, and I’ll do the one for tonight on time so that we’re back to good (because everyone here/knows everyone here is thinking about somebody who is currently in class). This week’s scholastic dilemma: community literacy!
First, a few admissions:
I like the study of literacy, but I HATE THE WORD ITSELF. I grew up working class (or poor, for those of you who aren’t PC). In my family, in my neighborhood, reppin’ the 4-5 in R-town, there was a binary around literacy (though back then I’d have gotten popped in the face if I’d said “there’s a hegemonic binary in place, people!”). If you weren’t literate, you were ILLITERATE, and being illiterate was like being Luke Skywalker for Halloween: there were idiots who lived that way, but no one wanted it.
That said, I think literacy is a key component in learning and participating in any form of discourse. I had a brush-up with a fellow scholar recently about how I define literacy, but I borrow heavily from Stuart Selber with a sprinkle of Deb Brandt and then some of my own flavor. I see literacy as the development of a set of strategies and skills, akin to building a “bag of tricks” or equipping a toolbox (yeah—the toolbox metaphor is what made the other scholar mad, but I don’t mean “drill to build skill;” I mean “you need to know how to do this”). I could offer a host of examples, but here’s a simple Indiana-fresh one: if we walk out onto a basketball court, and you stand at the foul line, and I bounce you the ball, you are one-on-one (to 21, naturally) literate if you begin dribbling and attempt to score. If you let the ball bounce off your face and say “what the hell?” you are NOT literate in the game we’re playing and I was sort of a jerk to bounce pass a leather ball off your face. This obviously gets a lot more complex as we deal with complex literacies, but that’s what I’m talking about when I say “literacy.” I’m talking about knowing how to do what it is that you’re doing.
Community is a little tougher to define. I see scholars going from a very, very narrow sense of the word to a wide under my umbrella-rella-rella-rella (someone cue Jay-Z) version. So I’m going to just define community in terms of my own working sense of things. I think a community:
1. Needs at least two people, and will be much more effective if there are several
2. Needs at least ONE common practice (though again, several would be better)
3. Needs a reason to be grouped together (otherwise it’s a happenstance)
4. Needs collaboration, though it doesn’t particularly need to be complete and total collaboration
5. Needs some sort of rules, even if they are all implicit and highly fluid
It might benefit my definition to point out that the bulk of my research on communities is based on digital/online communities. For example, there’s the Colts message board I mentioned a few posts ago as part of my digital identity. It fits my criteria. There are over 1000 members (more than two). They have the common practices of watching and talking about football, though there are several other sub-sets of common practice (attending games, collecting memorabilia, playing the same video games, etc.). There’s a clear reason why they are grouped together (mutual allegiance to a team and desire to socialize/exchange information). They collaborate to compose the community, although they don’t always work well together and some openly resist. And the community has rules—both formalized ones (which I help enforce as a task master—I’m so evil!) and socially constructed ones which are policed by the population itself.
So if we have these two concepts—at least in my terms—what, then, is community literacy when we smash the two words together? Get ready, as I’m about to cheat.
Community literacy is:
1. Understanding how to do, view, and critique whatever it is the community is doing
2. Knowing how to navigate the five criteria for community above
In other words, to be a part of the community, you must be literate in the community, and to be literate in the community, you must understand WHY it is a community.
If my instructor where here, I think he’d laugh at the naïve idiocy of my position. But I also think that this is a way to apply something which is otherwise abstract and rough. So for now, I’m going to try to apply this and see where it gets me.