Digital Literacies: Texts, Knowledge and Power in Higher Education

Goodfellow, Robin (2008). Digital Literacies: Texts, Knowledge and Power in Higher Education. In: Solly, Martin; Conoscenti, Michelangelo and Campagna, Sandra eds. Verbal/Visual Narrative Texts in Higher Education. Linguistic Insights: Studies in Language and Communication (80). Bern: Peter Lang, pp. 135–151.



I have argued that there is a power struggle going on in Higher Education that exemplifies the ideological struggle critical discourse analysts have claimed exists at all levels of the use of language and the production of texts. This struggle has at stake the role of higher education in teaching people to reflect critically on the power relations that shape all our lives, and the role of digital literacy practices in both the construction and critique of these relations. I have suggested that the struggle works through into teaching and learning in the university via parallel shifts: in the curriculum – away from disciplinary knowledge production and towards professional practice; in pedagogy - away from teaching and towards the management of learning; and in textual communication – away from print and towards electronic text. These shifts come together in the rapidly expanding practices of e-learning. I argued that digital literacy practices emerging out of the social relations of the internet and being absorbed into university teaching and learning, were becoming both a site for and a stake in the struggle for the role of critique. To illustrate this I discussed digital texts produced by groups of professional learners at the Open University, and I concluded that whilst digital practices might undermine academic critique of professional practice, they could become a means of transforming that practice. Transformation without critique, however, is unlikely to redress inequalities in power in higher education, and what is required is a marriage of academic and digital literacies and a new will to contest the ownership of university pedagogical practice.

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