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Adolescents’ New Literacies with and through Mobile Phones


Julie Warner

This book provides a deeper understanding of the phone-based composing practices of youth and their implications for literacy learning. In the United States, smartphone use among teens is nearly universal, yet many youth who are avid digital composers still struggle with formal schooled literacy. The widespread and rapid embrace of smartphones by youth from all income levels has had a substantial impact on the way that young people approach the act of composing, yet to date, little to no work has explored digital photography and text curation through popular apps like Twitter and Instagram and their impact on literacy, including formal schooled literacy. As more schools are moving to Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) models and lifting classroom bans on cellphones, classroom teachers need information about the affordances of phones for formal literacy learning, which this book provides.

This book will also be of interest to those in courses in the fields of education, new literacies, cultural studies/youth culture, literacy studies, communication arts, and anthropology of education/social sciences. This book could be used in a course on online/Internet ethnography. It could also be used in a more general research methods course to illustrate the combination of online and offline data collection. Outside of research methods courses, it could be used in courses on literacies, digital literacies, youth culture, popular culture and media, or mobile learning.

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Chapter 5. Challenging Theories of Design



Challenging Theories of Design


This chapter challenges design theory as a lens for examining mobile phone-based literacy practices through examples of the ways that the affordances and architecture of the mobile phone and the engendered practices challenge previously-dominant views of composing as planned, designed, and focused on an end-product. Instead, this chapter argues, mobile phone-based composing practices show composition as part of ongoing literacy practice engaged by youth as part of their larger social aims. Much of mobile phone-based digital composing happens on-the-go, in the in-between spaces of our lives, and, as the data show, may be more precipitous than previously theorized. In addition, mobile digital composing is highly dialogic and responds to existing voices and existing texts. Rather than springing forth spontaneously without origin or genealogy, so much of mobile phone-based composing is reactive and answers or otherwise responds to existing communication. This chapter begins by tracing the origins of the application of design theory to work in the field of digital literacies, and then explores how this idea of multimodal composing as a process of design materializes in some of the early digital literacies literature. These ideas are explored through the data collected in this study to demonstrate the ways in which the participants’ writing practices challenge theories of mobile phone-based composing practices as design-based practices with attention to texts created on apps such as Snapchat and Instagram, which challenge ideas about revision and the temporal scales involved with composing...

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