Transliteracy definition

January 10, 2011 § Leave a comment

Today I finally had time to read this post by Sense and Reference.  I very much like his explanation of transliteracy, and it meshes with several other posts I have read on the subject (mostly at Libraries and Transliteracy, some of which were also written by Wilkinson of Sense and Reference).*  Here’s an excerpt, when he describes what transliteracy is, as opposed to literacy, translation or transliteration:

“Within the English language, digital media have introduced a range of new domains with new linguistic competencies required for comprehension. The neat part is that, in many cases, these new syntactical techniques are conceptually tied to other domains. When reading or writing in different media, our reading brains make these connections behind the scenes.4 These connections come to the surface when we try to teach a new language or skill. This is why we make analogies between different formats: hyperlinks are like footnotes, hashtags are like words in the index, Wikipedia is like an encyclopedia, JSTOR is like a file-cabinet, etc. When we can comprehend information in multiple domains we exhibit multiple literacies. When we can step back and compare different linguistic domains, we engage in a second-order literacy: a literacy about literacies. This, I contend, is the meat of transliteracy. It isn’t about learning how to use a particular digital tool. It isn’t about social media. It isn’t about new media, augmented reality, immersive story-telling, or any of that jazz. Transliteracy is about our ability to understand when and how we move across an ever-expanding realm of linguistic domains.” (emphasis mine)

The only thing that I might add to this definition is that transliteracy increases understanding within individual literacies through the connections it creates.

*The writing process is truly amazing.  I began this post with a small qualm about Wilkinson’s definition of transliteracy, but the more I wrote, the more I had to think about the concept, and the more I understood his argument.


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