Using technology to talk to yourself

Reading a classmate’s blog post, I was reminded of the viewing we had at the beginning of the module by Clive Thompson (2013). He reviewed various communication technologies from ancient times to the present and looked at the development from their use as “broadcast technologies” to “intimate technologies”. The first “broadcast” phase is where a literate few could use the technologies to disseminate information to the masses, usually when a technology is relatively new, rare and expensive. The intermediate phase, where the masses begin to use the technology to communicate between themselves, occurs when the technology becomes cheaper, mass-producible and available across various strata of society. Finally, when the technology becomes virtually ubiquitous across a large swathe of society, it reaches the “intimate” phase, where people start using the technology to talk to themselves.

I was trying to find this reference for my reflection on the directions and developments and issues in digital literature. Along with my theory that developments in digital literature will follow the path of payment (Simon, 2018), I also feel that many of the technologies that allow for richer digital-literary synergy as described by Walsh (2013) are just now coming to the intermediate or mass-market stage that Thompson (2013) described. I think that is what will position digital literature to develop and grow – if a funding structure for publication also develops to support it.


Simon, M. (2018, July 29). Definitions, developments, new directions and issues in digital literature [Blog post]. Retrieved from

Thompson, C. (2013, September 22). The new literacies [Video file]. In World Maker Faire New York 2013. Retrieved from

Walsh, M. (2013). Literature in a digital environment. Chapter 13 in L. McDonald (Ed.), A literature companion for teachers. Marrickville, NSW: Primary English Teaching Association Australia (PETAA).

It can be nice to find your echo chamber

I keep reacting negatively to suggestions that literacy especially expectations for reading and comprehension are somehow fundamentally new when transferred to a digital environment. If you are interested, you can review my position on that here if you are in INF533 currently.

It is nice to come across a reading that gives my opinion some academic credibility and support. In my first reading for INF533 today, Barbara Combes states:

Being digitally literate means being literate first and having digital literacy skills or competencies second. Such competencies include navigation and information management skills to ensure up-to-date, relevant sources are located in an accessible format, and sources are well organised and documented to enable the efficient retrieval of information.

(Combes, 2016, p. 5)

I could get used to the air in here, in here, in here.


Combes, B. (2016). Digital literacy: A new flavour of literacy or something different?. Synergy, 14(1), 1-8 (pdf version). Retrieved as print-friendly pdf from

Definitions, developments, new directions and issues in digital literature


Digital literature spans such a wide variety of formats that it is hard to define. Even looking at what is heralded as excellence in digital literature does not always help. For example, look at two Australian awards given within nine months of each other. The Woolahra Digital Literary Awards 2018 required that submissions have been initially published online on an editorially curated site or in electronic format (Woolahra Municipal Council, n.d.). The QUT Digital Literature Award, however, requires that the work “relies on the unique capabilities of digital media” (Queensland Literary Awards, n.d., Section 4, para. 6). This difference led to works as different as Diary of a Post-Teenage Girl with Eloise Grills, a hand-drawn comic with the only digital affordance being the ability to select a particular frame to view and zoom in on it, and Nine Billion Branches, a user-navigated digital landscape where poetry is revealed by different cursor controls implemented across a variety of on-screen artworks, receiving accolades that sound identical. With such a broad-spectrum definition of what digital literature is currently, it is difficult to consider what serves as a development or what might be a new direction in which it is headed, but I will try. Continue reading “Definitions, developments, new directions and issues in digital literature”

Thoughts on non-linearity

So, I was thinking about the non-linearity that can be exploited in digital literature. My thoughts fell in these main areas.

The defining of a characteristic solely as NOT something

There are so many different configurations that non-linear can take – some of them actually fairly linear! Non-linear seems to mean just not one particular, ordered chain of events that is intended to be read in the same sequence by all consumers. There are so many forms this can take, though, and I think some are more suited to different stages of cognitive and reading development – some definition within this category would be helpful.

We are humans, not Time Lords


As I understand it, humans tend to perceive time and space linearly, even if scientific theories (and science-fiction) put forward the view of it as more of a string, a loop or a ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff. (This may be full to the brim of Western cultural bias – please direct me to literature that contradicts this if you know of it!) I would argue that narrative, to be understood as narrative, requires some sort of coherent line or shape (though not necessarily a single, straight, unbroken line) to be recognised as narrative by people.

Trying to run before you walk or crawl can cause performance issues

My daughter missed out on much of the crawling stage of her infancy due to treatment for hip displaysia. One result of that was that she lacked core strength typically acquired in that phase of development. This led to issues with posture, grip, and handwriting that led to Occupational Therapy in Year 1. Just as there are stages of physical development, where skipping the usual progression can lead to issues in seemingly unrelated areas (poor handwriting as a result of minimal crawling was not on my radar!), I would argue that the development of reading comprehension may require an understanding of linearity and chronological progression before being able to effectively make meaning from non-linear texts. I suspect that shuffling the order of this development might lead to issues of understanding in seemingly unrelated areas.

What do you think?


GIOHY. (n.d.). 1×02 gif [GIF]. Retrieved from×02-KkwuweDV2Gkdq.

PEBCAK error: aka don’t leave discussion forum posts partially written

I am mad at technology, though technically I am experiencing the effects of a PEBCAK (problem exists between chair and keyboard) error. I am frustrated with technology because it was issues with technology that led to this particular user malfunction.

Unlike blog posts, discussion forum posts don’t have a draft-saving option. [ETA: Super PEBCAK error – they DO have a save draft function!!! Please tell me there is a reset button for the last 24 hours!] Therefore writing and publishing them is a one-stop-shop deal. However, my plans to get around that previously – writing my post in Evernote and then copying and pasting – have led to formatting errrors that I can’t seem to rectify easily on the forum. Since this aesthetic mismatch really bothered me in my first forum post, I decided to draft in Evernote but publish my final copy by directly typing into the forum box. As one does, I edited my writing along the way and added some video, graphics and hyperlinking. Midway through compiling my reference list last night, I realised that I was late for heading out to a farewell party and left the computer without saving my work in any way.

Happily, when I returned to my computer this morning, there was my post waiting oatiently for me. I jumped in and completed my reference list, closing the browser windows after carefully hyperlinking every website. At this point, a prudent, wise and non-congested technology user would consider not tempting fate and backing up more than an hour’s work by simply selecting all and copying and pasting to their Evernote file. Woe is me! I clicked submit and fell down the rabbithole of “I am sorry, but you do not have access to this area of the site.” Yes – my login had expired and all that work gurgled down the virtual drain. So – note to self (and anyone still reading – backup your work in whatever way you can, whenever you can, always remember to back up your work.

But at least I got a reflection post out of it … and one with no citations needed!

How quickly I forget – blog it to keep it!

As I was reading through some of the blog posts that my classmates have written for the first assessment task in INF533, I was reminded of interesting and relevant tidbits from the readings over the past fortnight. It is eye-opening to me how much I am forgetting, even though I am trying to read critically and take notes. Since one of the uses of a reflective blog is to work through ideas and hopefully cement them more in my mind, I will try to heed the advice (Croft, 2018, 35:47-36:57) of trying to increase the frequency of my blogging with shorter, sharper reflections to note things I may want to remember.

To that end, one of the things I was reminded of when reading the blogs was Annette Lamb’s (2011) redefining of the terms “reading” and “book”. Here they are to remind me:

Reading is the process of constructing meaning from symbols. A book is a published collection of related pages or screens.


(Lamb, 2011, p. 13)

I have some issues with various claims that we need a brand new definition of literacy, completely revolutionised for the information age – it often seems like an oversell to me. This gentle but powerful reconceptualisation of some of the underlying terms for literacy – reading and books – that seeks to incorporate both the new digital practice and the traditional print medium really resonates with me.


Croft, T. (2018). INF533: Online Meeting 1 [Adobe Connect recording]. Retrieved from

Lamb, A. (2011). Reading redefined for a transmedia universe. Learning and Leading with Technology, 39(3), 12-17. Retrieved from

Entering the world of digital literature – the good, the bad and the ugly

As I related in the first discussion forum task (Simon, 2018), my main experience with digital literature prior to this class was personal consumption of straight print-to-digital eBooks. My main classroom use, to date, has been scanned or otherwise digitised copies of traditional picture books displayed on the Smartboard for shared reading. The readings in the first module have worked together to inspire and frustrate me. I am inspired by the breadth and variety of digital literature described in the various readings, but frustrated by how little exposure I have had to these in my classroom teaching settings as well as by my attempts to actually find the digital literature that I am reading about. My explorations have yielded the good, the bad, and the ugly.

First I’ll share the good news. The possibilities for digital literature are simply incredible. As Walsh (2013) demonstrates in her analyses of the born-digital, solely-digital narratives Inanimate Alice (The BradField Company, 2012-2018 in Walsh, 2013) and The Pedlar Lady of Gushing Creek (O’Rogers, 2011 in Walsh 2013) there is the possibility for innovative works that take great advantage of digital capabilities and present them in synergy with quality literary elements. I have seen works with rich literary language and structure that use digital affordances to enhance, inform, and serve the purpose of the text effectively in ways that could not be done in print. There are also works like The Boat (Le & Huynh, n.d.) an SBS digital work that falls in the category of a print work converted to digital with synergy between the literary and digital elements (Walsh, 2013, pp. 184-185; Yokota & Teale, 2014, p. 581).

via GIPHY Continue reading “Entering the world of digital literature – the good, the bad and the ugly”

Leu’s literacy – it’s brand new all over again

Once again in my readings this week, I was struck by my skepticism regarding claims of “new” literacies (Leu, et al., 2011; Leu, Forzani, Timbral, & Maykel, 2015). In the 2011 article, David Leu and company refer to the “new” literacies required for online reading comprehension, then goes on to enumerate a set of skills that have been part of research and information-gathering reading comprehension throughout the print age. I would argue that the majority of the skills that he listed may be modified somewhat in their context or in some aspect of their quality or quantity required in an online environment, but that they are hardly new. I suspect that I am not the first person to take issue with his characterisation as I note that by the time he co-authored the second article included in the module (Leu, et al., 2015) the skill under discussion was re-named “online research and comprehension” (Leu, et al., 2015, title).

I responded to a discussion forum post by Stojana Popovska (2018)  on this topic, and have copied that response here:

Do you really believe Leu et al.’s (2011) claim that online reading comprehesion represents a significantly new literacy? I found most of the factors that he described as “new” literacies of reading comprehension to be rather tried and true skills, perhaps modified somewhat in degree or format by the online medium, of non-fiction reading comprehension in a research or inquiry context. In fact, I found it quite illuminating that four years down the track, Leu, Forzani, Timbrell and Maykel (2015) were now referring to this supposedly “new” literacy as ‘online research and comprehension’ (pp. 139-140).

The factors described by Leu’s team (2011), including identifying important questions, locating important information, critically evaluating information, synthesising information and communicating information are all skills that are employed when conducting a research inquiry using traditional print materials. They hardly qualify as novel skills.

I would argue that their argument for new skills being required was most believable when related to locating information. Computer-based skills such as navigating hyperlinks effectively and employing keyword and boolean search strategies in search engines and using menus and submenus to navigate through website information are specific to online reading and research (Leu et al., 2011, p. 7). However, these do have analogues in the skills used to find print and microfiche materials in card catalogues and using tables of contents, chapter and section headings and indices to locate specific relevant information in large, complex print documents.

I feel that researchers who are quick to proclaim the overwhelming novelty of the literacies involved with current technologies actually do more of a disservice than a service with the alarms they raise. To my mind, a more useful and accurate approach would be to recognise the areas of overlap between skills needed to comprehend and synthesize traditional and online materials. After that identifying the specific computer-based skills needed to navigate and search for online information or highlighting the different degrees of care needed in areas such as establishing authority and credibility could be done. This would capitalise on the existing skills and knowledge of experienced educators rather than presenting findings in a manner that suggests they need to go back to the drawing board and completely re-invent reading instruction.


Leu, D. J., McVerry, J. G., O’Byrne, W. I., Kiili, C., Zawilinski, L., Everett-Cacopardo, H., . . . Forzani, E. (2011). The new literacies of online reading comprehension: Expanding the literacy and learning curriculum. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 55(1), 5-14. Doi: 10.1598/JAAL.55.1.1

Leu, D. J, Forzani, E., Timbrell, N., & Maykel, C. (2015). Seeing the forest, not the trees: Essential technologies for literacy in the primary-grade and upper elementary-grade classroom. Reading Teacher, 69(2), 139-145.

Popovska, S. (2018, July 3). Digital narratives [Online discussion comment]. Retrieved from Charles Sturt University website:

My (limited) experience with digital narratives and synergy

This was crossposted (without embedded video or hyperlinks within text) to the Discussion Forum for INF533 in Session 201860: thread available here.
It was in response to the following prompt:

(C)onsider Walsh’s chapter, and share your knowledge, understanding and experiences with digital narratives in the discussion forum. What are the key points of synergy that you have encountered? What are the differences?

My main area of experience with digital literature is the category of traditional literature presented in digital form, Unsworth’s electronically augmented or re-contextualised literary texts (Walsh, 2013; Unsworth (2006) in Walsh, 2013, p. 181), either as scanned copies of picture books used in classroom settings or ebooks I have personally read on a nook, iPad or iPhone. To be quite honest, I have even rarely used enhancements and features of the plain digitised eBooks, other than those that are automatic, like page re-orientation or low-light-level background and text and lighting adjustments performed in iBooks. I am intrigued by the possibilities discussed in the various readings, from the hypertext narratives that seem to have been the stirrings for the concept and terminology of electronic literature (Rettburg, 2012; Lamb, 2011) to works such as Inanimate Alice and Chopsticks: A Novel that are beginning to redefine the idea of ‘literature’ or ‘text’ with their multimedia affordances (Walsh, 2013; James & DeKock, 2015). My only exposure to these types of works has been through the readings of the module, and while I enjoyed playing around with them a bit (and also dipping into The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (Pemberley Digital, 2012-2014) through Tehani’s announcement) I have not really experienced them enough to analyse the synergy between literary quality and digital features that Walsh (2013) describes.

Short clip of animated series played via the now defunct website (Alexander Entertainment,2015).

Continue reading “My (limited) experience with digital narratives and synergy”

Regular real-time instructor interactions – woo hoo!

Last night I attended my first online meeting for EER500: Introduction to Educational Research. Instead of module content, the instructor, Dr James Deehan, has set up a weekly reading list schedule accompanied by weekly online meetings. While I do miss the guidance and summarising of key ideas found in a module, I loved the online meeting. Full disclosure: I did not pay complete attention throughout the meeting as some of it was a review of the reading material that I felt fairly confident about. However, it gave me a chance to ask questions or make comments and receive real-time interaction with the instructor. That has happened in my other subjects – but only a handful of times throughout the session.

What excites me about this subject is knowing that he plans to do this on a regular basis – weekly, in fact! Having a predictable, regular and frequent time and space for this type of interaction is something that I profoundly missed in my subjects last session (and suspect that I will continue to miss in the majority of the ones to come). I’d better enjoy it while it lasts!



P.S. It doesn’t hurt that he is a funny and engaging speaker who is passionate about his subject!


GIPHY. (n.d.). I’m so excited GIF [GIF}. Retrieved from

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