Literacy as Worldmaking

Multimodality, creativity and cosmopolitanism

Authored by: Amy Stornaiuolo

The Routledge Handbook of Literacy Studies

Print publication date:  May  2015
Online publication date:  May  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415816243
eBook ISBN: 9781315717647
Adobe ISBN: 9781317510611


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In their article about how disability functions more as a property of culture than of individuals, McDermott and Varenne (1995) use a powerful metaphor to describe how we engage with one another across difference. They argue that culture is a process of “hammering a world,” with “people hammering each other into shape with the well structured tools already available” (McDermott and Varenne 1995: 326). Their metaphor is particularly useful when considering the ways in which the cultural tools we have accessible to us – especially the multiple representational forms now available via digital technologies – function as formidable resources for writing and rewriting our world, “transforming it through conscious, practical work” (Freire 1987: 35). The process of transforming the world through “symbolic work” (Willis 1990) is not an uncomplicated one, fraught with the difficulties of communicating and understanding across vast differences in ideologies, languages, geographies, and cultures as we hammer one another into shape using the multimodal symbolic tools at our disposal. Yet this effort to create meaning together across differences also affords profound pleasure in the creativity of everyday living (Rymes 2013; Willis 1990) and represents “a fundamental human capacity for living in a global world” (Hull and Stornaiuolo 2014: 16). In this chapter, I explore how people’s literate activities in the context of globalization are practices of worldmaking (cf. Goodman 1978; Holland et al. 1998), a process of constructing shared worlds through symbolic practices that intertwine the creative, ethical, and intellectual in the act of making meaning from the multiple and dynamic cultural resources at hand.

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