How To Do Research on Multiliteracies 101

Posted by nicholaspelafas on July 29, 2011

An important part of understanding the ways in which multiliteracies are useful is studying how people utilize them naturally and what they are inspired to do when exposed to them.  As multiliteracy is a relatively new field of study, it is a crucial time to research how multiliteracies are constructed, and to put that into dialogue with how students are taught to utilize them.  It has to do with a number of factors ranging from intuition, attraction, comfort, familiarity, goals, tasking, and inspiration; I have often wondered what a study of the efficacy of newer literacies might look like.

Surfing the web, I came across an awesome 2008 study by Mercedes Sanz Gil and María Luisa Villanueva Alfonso from the Universitat Jaume I in Spain entitled: A Critical Approach to Multiliteracy: Automates Intelligents.  The abstract reads:

In this paper we present and analyse a website with a complex rhyzomatic structure in connection with the results of a cybertask in which students were asked to read various information sources by navigating a range of websites. The results and discussion include issues such as: a) culture of learning and students’ task representation; b) possible relationships between learning styles and ways of navigating and managing information to solve a task; c) criteria students use to evaluate their navigation practices.

In order to do this study, they first looked closely at the structure of the website Automates Intelligents which is a part of  the French Language Institut de l’Information Scientifique et Technique.  The researchers looked closely at the various kinds of links that existed on the site and tried to evaluate both the types of links that were present and the ways they are connected to each other.  The nature of this network theoretically determines how students create meanings and make connections between various sources of information.

Next they assigned students a specific research task, and tracked the actual ways that students made use of the website.   They then analyzed how the task was completed by the students and ways in which their approach via multiliteracies contributed to their critical thinking skills with regards to completing the task and furthering their overall understanding.  Even more interesting for me was the fact that we are talking about Spanish/Catalan speakers using a French language website!  This extra level of complexity can get us started thinking about how multiliteracies can also increase our critical communication capacity.

Overall the study and its conclusions are fascinating if you are interested in multiliteracies.  It really gets us thinking about the myriad of literacies that are out there and how we might begin to study those as well.  Clearly the future of the field depends on deepening our understanding of the complexity of how networks are constructed, how we teach our selves to navigate and adapt those networks, and how we may broaden our understanding of literacy in ways that allows us to combine literacies to create new networks and webs of meaning.


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