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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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I took my first job as a teenager in the 1990s just so I could afford a beeper. Sometimes called a pager, having one of these little pieces of LCD-screen equipped plastic devices meant that you could communicate with your friends and family when you were out and about. The beeper came with a clip that allowed you to affix the thing to your clothing. Beeper communication was one-way; my beeper relied on input from a (usually landline) telephone to receive any information and I could not send messages through the beeper. When someone called your beeper number from a telephone, an automated prompt would ask them to input a callback phone number. While the beeper was designed to have the caller input a phone number, teenagers quickly implemented a system of codes that translated to simple messages. For example, inputting “143” meant, “I love you” (the numbers corresponded to the number of letters in each word in the phrase). Adding “911” after a phone number imparted a sense of urgency (call me back quickly!). “411” meant, “call me and give me the information on what is happening.” Teens used numerals to suggest alphabetic text as well; 14 stood for “hi” because it resembled the word when the pager was turned upside down (the same went for 07734, which looked loosely like the word “hello”). My friends and I each had a numeric code that represented our selves. Mine was 791, chosen at random. These al←xv | xvi...

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