Thursday, November 01, 2007

A Language is a Dialect with an Army

Colette Daiute of City University of New York has spent a lot of time in computer labs in community centers in the former Yugoslavia. Today, in a presentation on the U.C. Irvine campus about "Literacy Development and Crisis," Daiute discussed her four-nation study of what were generally computer-mediated narratives in an online survey that asked 137 young people to write stories about conflict involving their own interactions with peers, disagreements between adults they have witnessed, or an imagined disruption in a local narrative set in the future in the context of civic participation around a community center.

In a talk that is useful for thinking about a lot of Virtualpolitik topics (public diplomacy, political rhetoric, language ideology, and computer-mediated communication, for starters), Daiute argued that too much attention has focused on medical models for the survivors of trauma that target treating only the individual and seeing experiences of war and urban strife as damage which the external practitioner must heal. Daiute's work looks at how narratives of nations, leaders, and groups can be used to justify aggression or peace and the "scripts and stories" of their younger citizens in Serbia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

In addition to drawing on research from political scientists, Daiute referenced Vygotsky's work as a developmentalist, which has been so influential in write-to-learn pedagogies like my own, and Bakhtin's theories of genre and addressivity. She also notes that much of the postwar infrastructure has been built around computers in these newly independent republics and that online communication allows adolescents to read and discuss a "public story," such as use of an offensive alternate reality game, "Catch the Illegal Immigrant," at NYU.

Thanks to Mark Warschauer for providing the title for this posting during the Q&A and to Rebecca Black for inviting me.

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