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New Literacies, New Agencies?

A Brazilian Perspective on Mindsets, Digital Practices and Tools for Social Action In and Out of School


Edited By Eduardo S. Junqueira and Marcelo E.K. Buzato

From students as teachers’ pets to teachers as Second Life avatars, or from being ridiculed for not knowing your syntax to ridiculing others through multimodal remixing, something has changed in the way people are acting and being acted upon through literacies. From parallel text processing «under a cloud» to text-as-process enhanced by cloud computing, or from one laptop per child to several laptops left behind by children in creative spoken interaction, learners and educators’ actions through and around texts and technologies provide quite a telling example of such changes. From writing as technology to blogging as a tool for fostering critical mindsets within complexity, or from automatized knowledge acquisition routines to new forms of relating to knowledge and new perspectives on autonomy, social ordering and Self constitutional processes defy binaries such as agent/structure, global/local, social/technical, virtual/real, or even human/non-human. In this volume a team of scholars from some of the most prestigious Brazilian universities address these issues, and illustrate them with findings from research on the interplay between new literacies, digital technologies and social action in and out-of-school. The chapters introduce, or revisit, an array of theoretical constructs from education, sociology, linguistics and media studies, while presenting a new inside perspective about how research on new literacies is being carried out in Brazil. Altogether, they provide a very useful set of ideas, tools and analytical frameworks for researchers, teachers, and students of Education, Language and Arts and Communication worldwide, especially those concerned with technology-enhanced education and social inclusion.


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Chapter 2. Mapping Flows of Agency in New Literacies: Self and Social Structure in a Post-social World Marcelo El Khouri Buzato 22


The Agency–Structure Debate: An Introduction As is probably the case for many readers of this chapter, I was drawn into the extensive literature on agency because of two disturbing questions often addressed to new literacies scholars worldwide. “What are we doing with tech- nologies such as the Internet?” and “What are technologies such as the Internet doing to us?” It occurred to me that the best way to answer both questions, leav- ing them conveniently open to further scrutiny, was through a circular defin- ition or a rhetorical tautology: “what we are doing to them is what they are doing to us.” One of the aims of this chapter is to elaborate on that reply a little further, in which case I wear my contributor’s hat for this volume. The other aim is to present a brief introduction to the historical agency–structure debate in social sciences in order to contextualize theoretically both the various conceptual- izations of agency used by the contributors in this volume—here I wear my co- editor’s hat for the volume—and a particular, and particularly controversial, theoretical perspective on the agency–structure integration known as Material Semiotics or Actor–Network Theory (henceforth ANT). In order to highlight the usefulness of Material Semiotics, I present a vignette from my own research · 2 · Mapping Flows of Agency in New Literacies Self and Social Structure in a Post-social World MARCELO EL KHOURI BUZATO Junqueira_t3 contrib 9/9/2013 8:49 AM Page 22 into the production of...

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