Digital metroliteracies: : Space, diversity and identity

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Handbook of Writing, Literacies, and Education in Digital Cultures, 2018, pp. 211 - 222
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Facebook now plays a significant role in the everyday digital literacy practices of people around the world (de Bres, 2015). Desperately trying to keep up with the proliferation of online semiotic practices, scholarship on online digital literacy has emphasized linguistic diversity and semiotic heterogeneity as some of the crucial literacy characteristics of Facebook (Leppänen, Møller, Nørreby, Stæhr, & Kytöla, 2015). The combination of diverse linguistic resources, repertoires, modes, codes, genres, and styles in online and Facebook environments emphasizes the growing need to problematize more traditional concepts, such as bi/multilingualism and codeswitching (Sharma, 2012; Sultana et al., 2013, 2015), a process that has become a major focus of contemporary sociolinguistics ( Pennycook, 2016). When Androutsopoulos (2007) refers to linguistic and literacy diversity on the Internet, he directly associates it with creativity saturated with different semiotic resources rather than mixed language systems. As Velghe (2015, p. 27) notes, “Language and literacy are always the means to (obtain) voice (‘to let one be heard and understood’).” Facebook messages, from this point of view, can be viewed not so much as “linguistic objects” or “carriers of denotational meanings,” but rather “as indexical objects that are meant to be used to ‘socialize’ with others.” These phatic Facebook exchanges are therefore better measured by “the standards of the indexical order of conviviality, instead of by the standards of language only.” While questioning the separability of language from other modes of communication on Facebook, Sharma (2012) also notes that the Facebook environment is a transmodal space, in which users redefine the role of English and other languages in relation to their existing online social relationships, innovatively transcending the meaning of English not only by mixing it with local language but also by using other multimodal texts drawing on both local and global media content. Digital literacy practices on Facebook often involve semiotic/linguistic creativity, with users re-entextualizating and relocalizing varied available signs and linguistic resources to create their own versions of digital literacy (Thorne, 2013). As Leppänen et al. (2015, p. 4) point out, superdiversity in social media is realized by “the mobility and mobilization of linguistic and other semiotic resources that are distributed, recontextualized and resemiotized in various ways in countless and rhizomatic digital media practices mushrooming on the internet.” “Sharing” an update, for example, is a classic case of “re-entextualization” or “re-semiotization” (Varis & Blommaert, 2015, p. 36). Reentextualization on Facebook can be understood as the process by which a text (broadly understood) is “extracted from its original context-of-use and re-inserted into an entirely different one, involving different participation frameworks, a different kind of textuality” (a text might be condensed as a quote; an image used to suggest a place), producing “very different meaning outcomes.”
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