Emergent Literacy

“For 3- to 5-year-olds, the imagery and default mode networks mature late, and take practice to integrate with the rest of the brain,” Hutton explains. “With animation you may be missing an opportunity to develop them.”

When we read to our children, they are doing more work than meets the eye. “It’s that muscle they’re developing bringing the images to life in their minds.”

Hutton’s concern is that in the longer term, “kids who are exposed to too much animation are going to be at risk for developing not enough integration.”


The other day I posted about “emergent propaganda” in which the idea of propaganda that emerges from a particular environment. Now, this about “emergent literacies” in which skills to read and write technology emerges from the environments that we provide for kids.

As an educator, this makes me think of scaffolding, yet there seems to be a difference – in the example here, kids are going to grow and advance regardless of the scaffolding present or not. There’s a larger context here apart from any given learning goal.

Anyway, the takeaways in this paper, for me at least, is that books (especially children’s books) will never go away completely, and that in rushing kids too much into digital environments at a young age parents might miss opportunities to develop robust literacy skills in their children.

Literacy Ataxia: Overwhelmed by the demands of processing language, without enough practice, they may also be less skilled at forming mental pictures based on what they read, much less reflecting on the content of a story.


The story about this paper is worth a read (via the Katexic newsletter):




Propagandizing Public Opinion

I think what social media produce is emergent propaganda — propaganda that is not directed in any specific and conscious sense by anyone but rather emerges, arises, from vast masses of people who have been catechized within and by the same power-knowledge regime.


The idea of emergent propaganda is alluring. Although, it makes me wonder what the difference would be between EP and “public opinion”.

I do think that the idea of public opinion is different from pre-social media time. Social Media isn’t just opening a window to what has and always been there – the window lets out as much as it lets in.

Yet, I’m not sure that I can lump concepts of ‘propaganda’ in with the non-deliberate.

Propaganda is deliberate. So, any emergent propaganda would mean that there’s some intentional force behind or within our technology or our hive minds.

In bringing Ellul’s description of propaganda into social technology of today, are we claiming that our technology, spaces, or collective are being deliberate?

It seems like backwards reasoning…although I’m not all that sure either way. At some point autonomy and intention does emerge.

If propaganda is now ‘crowdsourced’, there might be a tendency to associate it as democratic. Perhaps a phrase like “democratic propaganda” sets the dial between that what is undirected, but still not detached from intention.

As well, the difference between the words ‘construct’ and ‘construe’ seems to matter here. There is a conscious sense in which the propaganda is created, however it is the direction of the impact that emerges because the size, channel, and duration of the force needed to impact the general public nowadays is momentous. It’s even now difficult to create an impact in non-emergent ways.

Perhaps it’s the entry point at which someone begins using that emergent force for deliberate purposes. In this case, it might be better called Commandeered Propaganda. Or, Hijacked Opinion.

The Trade-offs When Making from Scratch

There is something that happens the busier we are with things. Yes, there is value in learning to do things from scratch. But, I myself notice I get lazy. I can do it in other ways and I can probably make it look much better if I just used photoshop vs using a generator.

And that’s the tension, that’s the trade-off.


Here’s an older episode of Loose Learners, where Mariana and John talk about technology and education in a slow, calm way.

There’s a good discussion that follows this quote about the trade-offs, about what we learn when we do the work and what we might not have time or need for.

As they note, the decision always depends on situation. But, the difference is a level of competency in the ability to read and write for that particular process. In doing from scratch (or, leaning that way when possible) I better know about my competency, what I could have done, were I can improve my skill, when it is worth it to do this particular task on my own or not – in all, my use of the skill becomes more explicit.

Then there’s the matter of style (mentioned around 26:50 in the audio). Learning to recognize, tweak, and create a style is a major component in the literacy of any medium. Commanding an intentional style adds power to any communication.

Thinking of a similar situation, in cooking, making things from scratch is not only fun and helps to save money, it gets me thinking about nutrition and what I put into my body. Is there any better way to teach my kids about nutrition and health than to cook and bake with them?

Is there any better way to teach my kids about media and digital literacy than by making digital assets with them from scratch?

Fast Food Media

My fast food social media diet has been replaced by one managed around blogs, feeds and comments. I do sometimes feel I miss out on some things, but trust that if I need to know something that I will probably capture through some other means.


Twitter is a difficult topic to think and write about, in part because it’s used differently by so many people. My own Twitter use has reduced to minimal these days, for many reasons, but I do have thoughts.

Inherent in the platform itself is the initial rise in popularity that it needed to hit critical mass, and the resulting rise in popularity of it’s users. This is a one-time thing, and I think when many people talk about “making it great again” they are reminiscing about these initial days when early adopters voices were heard and listened to in a great proportion. Everyone loves to have their voice heard.

Another random thought I have is that people aren’t able to fully operate as a “center among many”, especially those who didn’t grow up in a social media world. What I mean by this is that SM sites like Twitter allow users to create an amazing media ecology that surrounds each user. However users still want control over that ecology, they have strong expectations of their “audience”. Trolls and abusers of the system are one thing (and certainly a worse problem itself), but those who attempt to control the parameters of a conversation, are always going to be longing for a more private, community based space – which Twitter is not.

The post quoted at the top offers some more useful musings about Twitter and its alternatives. It’s always worth it to read honest thoughts on the subject these days.

I use RSS and blog feeds mostly these days as well. One rule of thumb I try to stick by when I do use social media is that whenever I find myself writing the word “we”, I delete it if I can and rewrite my idea using the word “I”. I’m no spokesperson for anyone, and on a platform where everyone is at the center of their own construing, not many people are.


More: A post on Audience-Centrism, which I actually forgot about until writing this post

More: On growth and Twitter

Choosing Determinism

I simply note that the charge of technological determinism requires a much longer discussion. It was McLuhan, after all, who affirmed, “There is absolutely no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening.” And it is, of course, important to take economic and political factors into consideration when one contemplates what is happening.

I like this article about FB and media ecology because it places significance on the author’s unwillingness to act as the crux of the matter.

The quote above, about technological determinism is relevant in this time because many articles you read about ubiquitous technology have already given in, and assume determinism in their perspective, and their thought process.

More: Maybe “determinism” is just a failure to educate the youth?

Driving with Phone in Hand

In this spring of this year I decided to use parts of my lunch-hour to observe drivers in downtown Calgary to see, generally, how many drivers are using a smartphone while driving. The quick answer is that it’s about 7%.

Texting while driving is something that worries me a lot. I’ve done work in the past about digital environments and presence, and I know that while someone is texting, they are simply not fully present behind that wheel – no matter how good of a driver they think they are.

I see people texting and driving all the time, so I decided to do a bit of observing and find out what the numbers are like. Calgary is especially suited for this because there’s a “plus 15” system throughout downtown, a second story walkway that offers several enclosed bridges overtop of roads, where an observer can see clearly into moving vehicles.

My goal was to observe 5000 cars over the spring and summer, however, because of life and then a change in my working conditions, I stalled at 900. It doesn’t look like I’ll get back to counting cars anytime soon, so I may as well post some results before this project becomes a distant memory.

I observed for 10 sessions, usually 100 cars at a time, for a total of 62 cars out of 900 that were holding a phone in their hand. This is 6.8%.

Two things were surprising to me, that this was a lower % than I expected (my initial guess was 10%), and that the results for each session were very consistent (6-8 per each 100 car session).

There were some limitations and worthwhile notes to make:

  • obviously, this is a small sample size. Although the consistency is enough for me to feel satisfied.
  • This is downtown driving, which might be different than suburb driving.
  • I didn’t count cars where I couldn’t see one of the hands – potentially missing many phones.
  • I also didn’t count professional drivers (taxis, work vans, buses, etc.) because of course they would never text and drive.
  • All observations were early afternoon on a weekday. Results might be different at different times or on weekends.
  • I tried to be objective, but there’s no denying that I am very anti-texting and driving, and that could have skewed numbers somehow

7% of texters is high, especially because I drive past several hundred other drivers even when I simply go up to the grocery store, and it only takes one to cause an accident.

For me, the fact that people simply can’t pull themselves away from the screen, even while operating a moving vehicle, is the best argument for mass deploy of self-driving cars. The sooner the better.

Link to my spreadsheet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1RjkWEEYb32ku4yVfLJMlcBRpkWhPna7W9ur_051hRD4/edit?usp=sharing



Space Between the Seamless – Cognitive Friction

“We get frustrated when interfaces don’t function seamlessly, and the aim is always to overcome cognitive friction in software. Of course, the flip side of the lack of friction is that we build unconscious habit and let our fingers do the walking, as we open Twitter for the Nth time in an hour without ever intending to…and stay there catching up with nothing.”


I like this post, Mariana has many interesting things to say on the topic of cognitive friction. There also a great discussion in the podcast that this article links to. This quote above jumped out at me because I think it’s one that can be explored deeper to a wealth of important questions.

I develop habits with or without cognitive friction. Developing unconscious habits, mentioned above, are the habits developed by technology for me. The conscious habits that I develop myself, with the help of and among friction, are the conscious ones that I develop myself.

What could be said to be the difference between these two types of habits? Maybe control. Maybe a degree of knowledge, learning, or literacy.


More: What if educators tried using edtech more for itself, to create friction and perplexity? https://apointofcontact.wordpress.com/2016/06/28/technology-for-friction/

More: Daily Stillness