A transliteracy manifesto for #RSCON3

Earlier today, some of my PLN were bantering about their #rscon3 experiences. It led me to reflect on an earlier transliteracy text that summarised many facets of the Reform Symposium these past three days in a poetic manner.

Said banter, and the “manifesto” below…

This following text published earlier in 2011 is by Phil Hester, a prolific comic book writer. He took over the script duties from J. Michael Straczynski, who initiated a grand narrative arc for a popular serial publication. J. Michael Straczynski himself is a prolific transmedia writer with many credits to his name, including being the creator of the TV series Babylon 5, credits as a screenwriter for many feature films including Clint Eastwood’s Changeling, and the creator of some stunning original graphic novels such as Midnight Nation, as well as long running credits on many DC Comics and Marvel titles.
In many ways, it’s a perfect transliteracy manifesto for #rscon3.

An observation: These are incredibly popular texts that our youth and adults read and learn from, in massed participatory affinity spaces, to borrow James Paul Gee’s view that there exists multiple alternatives of thriving informal “communities of practice”. In a March 2011 interview between Henry Jenkins and James Paul Gee, Gee’s own words are an analog of the excerpted script from Wonder Woman #609.

We are never, none of us, one thing all the time. Sure, the world continuously tries to impose rigid identities on all of us all the time. But it is our moral obligation–and one necessary for a healthy life–to resist this and to try to create spaces where identities based on shared passions or commitments can predominate.

from How Learners Can Be On Top of Their Game: An Interview with James Paul Gee (Part Three)

The Wonder Woman excerpt references multiple canons deep in interconnected contexts, among them classic Greek mythology and popular culture. The mythology of Diana of Themyscira’s origins are embedded in the text (and the accompanying visuals in the comic)- the princess of the Amazons, hidden away on Paradise Island surround by waters. Her own birth as a golem formed of earth and a prayer to the Greek Gods. The community of learners, the fans, have soaked up deep levels of informal learning through their own affinity spaces, these networked, participatory places of community. Huge online communities like CBR as well as ever growing face-to-face meetups like Comicon. Is it any surprise when looking at the top grossing movies of all time, we recognize that many of these titles derive from these transliteracy texts?

Is a script from a Wonder Woman comic worthy enough to be classed as literature? (Rhetorical question.) If this form of literacy engage passionate learners at home; found in books, digital media, video games, TV and cinema, their whole world bathed in transmedia culture … how does that relate to the “official” literature curriculum taught within their school culture? What is being privileged? How much opportunity are we missing by failing to tap into the learners’ demonstrated passions?

Finally, if you’re still wondering whether the term transliteracy is really necessary at all, or just a new-fangled term in search of a meaning, here’s a good introduction to various concepts surrounding the understanding of transliteracies.