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Electronic Essay

4881 words - 20 pages

Electronic Literature Pedagogy: A Questionable Approachby: Chris MottWHY SHOULD I TEACH ELECTRONIC LITERATURE?The first reason to teach electronic literature is practical: digital media are the most rapidly growing forms of communication, and they will only grow in their influence and pervasiveness. Most of our students are fairly skillful with electronic technology, but as we all know, skill is not literacy. Literacy includes the ability not only to perform in a given medium, but to think in and beyond that medium, to be able to critique and extend the medium. The unprecedented growth and ubiquity (soon computers will be more common in homes than TVs) of electronic technology demands an ...view middle of the document...

Surely, we in the humanities who have taught critical literacy all along are the best equipped to shoulder the responsibility of helping our students not only to understand and use, but to evaluate and create in and through electronic media.In What Video Games Have to Teach Us about Learning and Literacy (NY: Palgrave, 2004), James Paul Gee argues that interactive media (in this case, video games) allow for much deeper understanding of characterization than the old dynamic of identification because they better mimic the mutlilayered information fields our students walk through everyday. In addition, digital texts help promote a broader literacy; the old print literacy is necessary but not adequate for the complex semiotic environment our students must learn to read (19). Finally, digital media offers a richer learning experience because of their very multiplicity: multimedia appeals to multiple learning styles.From a literary standpoint, electronic literature poses the greatest challenge to the canon in the last thirty years. Indeed, electronic literature is the future of literature. Its possibilities are every bit as exciting as the work produced in Paris in the 1920s and at the Iowa Writer's Workshop in the 1960s. To fully realize this potential, our students need to learn the generic conventions, aesthetic criteria, and cultural contexts that define the New Media. Interactivity, for example, is a radical break from print literature and makes of the reader/player a co-author, or co-producer, if you will. Thus, the role of the "critic" will change greatly from the one who approaches a text from the outside to one who "plays" it from the inside. Criticism will take on a more performative role, and students are already assuming this role in their day-to-day semiotic activities.HOW CAN I HELP MY STUDENTS WHO ARE FRUSTRATED OR CONFUSED BY ELECTRONIC LITERATURE?We might find solace in the old adage that any true learning hurts, and we can help our students by remembering that we have strategies for helping them to overcome the frustration and confusion they feel when unable to identify the "hidden meanings" in any literary text. Electronic literature increases the potential frustration by perhaps defying students' sense of what a coherent text looks like and what it means to "read." Teachers can help their students by clearly defining critical tasks-even to the point of delimiting the text in temporal terms (30 minutes rather than thirty pages; see below in HOW DO I ASSIGN READING). Students get a better sense of what's at stake, and what to look for, if they know the historical and social context for devices, conventions and innovations. Finally, because each student's reading experience (and text) could be unique, asking students to collaborate on their interpretations can lead to exciting insights and a more complex understanding than that produced by the student in isolation. Further, using a wiki for student learning could also illuminate, in...

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