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Excerpts of my work: or identity.wmv

I created this digital video during my graduate coursework. I reference it in the following publication.

Heritage Literacy: Adoption, Adaptation, and Alienation of Multimodal Literacy Tools
College Composition and Communication, forthcoming February 2009

Heritage literacy is an explanation of how people transfer literacy knowledge from generation to generation and how certain practices, tools, and concepts are adapted, adopted, or alienated from use, depending on the context.  It is lifelong, cross-generational learning and meaning making, it is developmental and recursive, and it, like all literacies, builds over time or “accumulates” as Deborah Brandt put it in her article “Accumulating Literacy.”  Heritage literacy, then, describes how literacies and technology uses are accumulated across generations through a decision-making process.  As literacy for an individual, community, or group accumulates, contexts, objects, tools, and needs change; in turn community members adapt to the changes, adopt the changes, or alienate themselves from the changes.  And then when these community members pass on their uses of technologies and tools, the next generation must make the same decisions.

Heritage literacy is also multimodal.  It accounts for the passage of all sorts of literate practices, not necessarily or exclusively print or alphabetic literacies.  For example, Mary and Elaine [two of my Amish research participants] are both dressed to signify their Amish beliefs and culture.  They ascribe to a pattern, a set of signifying symbols, and are “read” as Amish by their choices of clothing, hairstyle, and head coverings.  Heritage literacy emphasizes “codified sign systems,” such as cuneiform, hieroglyph, or even quilts and manner of dress, as much as it emphasizes more traditional literacies.  By emphasizing the multimodality of reading and writing, heritage literacy emphasizes embedded uses of technologies, the decision making process explained above, and offers depth to our understanding of the impact of computer technologies.


Cooking, Recipes, and Work Ethic: Passage of a Heritage Literacy Practice
Journal of Literacy and Technology, forthcoming 2009

In the summer of 2005 I conducted auto-ethnographic research within my home community, called “Smalltown,” to better understand the passage of literacy practices between generations and inter-generational technology usage.  One finding of this study is of particular note to readers of Literacy and Technology because it concerns the often-overlooked literacies and technologies of cooking and recipe writing, specifically as they were manifested within a population that seems particularly opposed to technological innovation: the Amish.  This article, then, explores technological and literacy innovations in an environment where one would least expect to find them.

Cooking practices and recipes are the foundation of my analysis for several reasons.  First, food could be seen historically and traditionally as a “centerpiece of women’s work” (Schenone xii) and therefore a representative sample of the work done by the women interviewed for this analysis.  Second, cooking has a long history of technological advancement and change (e.g. standardized measurements, indoor plumbing, electricity, and modernized kitchen gadgets).  Third, cooking is representative of multimodal meaning making passed between generations of women.  “For generations, women’s ways of cooking were never even put into written words but rather were passed on largely through action, from mother to daughter, friend to friend, and only recently, via diaries and cookbooks and the faded ink of recipe cards” (Schenone xv). And fourth, cooking, recipes, and food are a deeply important aspect of any cultural heritage, including my own community.

This article first offers a detailed description of the concept of work as described by my participants.  Then I analyze cooking and recipe tools and practices as a type of work practice performed by women in the community.  I show how cooks create connections between technologies (recipes) and their cultural values and how recipes are tools best understood within their context.  Contextualized understanding of this literacy practice allows me to further develop and describe the specifics of heritage literacy and how my participants pass on an intellectual inheritance.  Context also allows me to show what factors impact the adoption or adaptation of literacy tools longitudinally over time.

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