Critical Engagement with Digital Stories
If Digital Is, what is digital (k)not? Is digital work new and innovative or just the same ole hogwash, only stored in digital clouds? What are those (k)nots and tangles that tie us up and hold things together? Does our work in school merely tie us to the master narratives of our culture—stories of rugged individualism, pulling oneself up by her bootstraps, the self-made man. Kara Poe Alexander’s College Composition and Communication essay “Successes, Victims, and Prodigies: ‘Master,’ ‘Little,’ and Cultural Narratives in the Literacy Narrative Genre” made us wonder about the digital stories we were reading on the internet and the digital stories we were promoting in our classrooms. Were the literacy narratives we were telling the literacy-equals-success stories—the more literacy one “gets,” the more successful she becomes? Was literacy a commodity—something we “give” and students “get” or “don’t get?” Did we dare speak about The Violence of Literacy, the counter narratives to the master narratives of our culture, the stories and little narratives that don’t quite fit with those that are rewarded and celebrated in schools.
This wondering—this thinking about the cultural work that digital stories do—surrounds the work of the Urban Sites group of the UNC Charlotte Writing Project. This wondering complicates and supports our teaching—this wondering sustains our community—this wondering pulls us into reflection, inquiry, and action.
Our critical conversations about teaching comprise this collection. We explore here how and why we see our teaching tangled up in these conversations, how the responses to our digital stories, like the responses we give to student narratives, support and challenge thinking by inviting convergence and divergence with the world around us. We see our classrooms as “figured worlds” (Holland, et al), where our stories and our students’ stories construct identities we live within and against—the identity of teacher, of problem student, of over achiever, for instance, that are part of the narrative of schooling. Our classrooms are remixes of these cultural narratives, “knot”-connected to each other, the untangling of which propels our thinking and work together.
This video is an image of how we work together in community and solidarity over time, with each other at our site, through our state network, and in conversation with the national network of Writing Project sites. This short clip—a rant–was taken at a recent writing retreat of our state network. We learned about “ranting” through Youth Roots of Oakland, CA. Lacy and Cindy first heard G. Reyes and Youth Roots at the Urban Sites Conference in Portland in 2010.
In 2011 we invited Youth Roots to be the keynote speakers at our Spring Conference where they taught teachers in Charlotte ways of thinking critically through digital composing and embodied literacy practices. We stand on their shoulders here.
Holland, D., Lachicotte, W., Skinner, D., & Cain, C. (1998). Identity and Agency in Cultural Worlds. Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.