Cultural Studies and the New Uses of Literacy

When:4 Apr 2014, 1pm - 6:30pm
5 Apr 2014, 9am - 3pm
Venue:Room 327, Robert Webster Building, Kensington Campus, Sydney
Who:School of the Arts and Media

This symposium emerges from ongoing debates, local and international, about the different approaches to ‘literacy’ in contemporary Cultural Studies. According to Stuart Hall, “there would have been no Cultural Studies” were it not for Richard Hoggart’s The Uses of Literacy: Aspects of Working Class Life. The importance of literacies emerges in Graeme Turner’s concern that the research projects of many students (and many academics, we would add) “are too often reduced to their topic rather than situated within the broadest possible relation to a body of ideas, concepts and approaches”. And David Buckingham warns that the

proliferation of literacies may be fashionable, but it raises some significant questions. Popular discussions of “economic literacy,” “emotional literacy,” and even “spiritual literacy” seem to extend the application of the term to the point where any analogy to its original meaning (that is, in relation to written language) has been lost.

Ongoing debate on the usefulness of Hoggart’s work suggests that The Uses of Literacy is an appropriate starting point from which to explore how academic research and teaching practices engage with cultural literacies. So, in thinking through ‘the uses of literacy’ we return to Hoggart’s text to (re)consider current scholarship, particularly that of scholars working in the intersecting fields of Cultural Studies, Literacy Learning, Media Studies, Communication Studies, Screen Studies and the Creative Industries.

Symposium Program (PDF) [20 Kb]

Presenter Abstracts (PDF) [86 Kb]

Keynote speakers:

Bill Green

Bill Green

Rethinking Literacy for the New Media Age?

Notwithstanding Richard Hoggart’s significance in the formation and history of cultural studies, and recurring references to his early book The Uses of Literacy, I want to argue that literacy as such doesn’t figure all that much in the field of cultural studies, at least in its dominant constructions. When it is not being deployed more or less metaphorically, there is overwhelmingly a sense of what has been described as “the assumption of literacy” – the view that literacy is something that can and should be simply ‘assumed’ in cultural studies work, or perhaps ‘presumed’, especially when that field is conceived as, first and foremost, a university discipline. I argue this is symptomatic of its restricted engagement with education, as both a practice and a field of study. Literacy, it seems, is all too often invested with the same kind of taken-for-grantedness as education. Seeking to open up a more productive dialogue between these two fields, this presentation will firstly explore the notion of a paradigmatic shift from ‘print’ to ‘digital electronics’, before going on to provide a reconceptualised, historically informed account of literacy, with due regard for changing formations of technology and culture, communication and power. What is at issue in rethinking literacy for the new media age?

Bill Green is Emeritus Professor of Education at Charles Sturt University, NSW. He has a longstanding interest in the relationship between education and cultural studies. His research profile includes work ranging across curriculum inquiry and literacy studies, English curriculum history, technocultural studies, doctoral research education, and education for rural-regional sustainability. Recent publications include the edited volumes Literacy in 3D: An Integrated Perspective in Theory and Practice (ACER, 2012), with Catherine Beavis, and Rethinking Rural Literacies: Transnational Perspectives(Palgrave Macmillan), with Michael Corbett. He is presently completing another edited volume on the body in professional practice, learning and education, to be published by Springer.

Lelia Green

Lelia Green

Children's digital literacies: a contested space

Early writers on children’s digital literacies were swift to identify contested priorities. P. David Marshall, for example, discussed the fact that parents bought computers for their children because of the educational imperatives while children used computers for games and socialising: “The arcade game dimension of the computer shifts its value from information source to entertainment site with a particular [working] class dimension.” (1997, p. 71). The anxieties this dynamic elicited were further exacerbated by the realisation of (in those days) accessible sexual content: “Parents still occupy the role of the initiated with regard to sexuality, [but] if they are uninitiated technologically then they lose the power base from which to set the markers for progressive socialisation.” (1997, p. 68)

Eighteen years later, many of those children now have children of their own but what passes for digital literacy in which circumstances is no less hotly contested. Indeed, more organisations and institutions are involved in the debate. Schools, policy makers, parents and children all have digital literacy agendas.

This presentation takes policy-driven research with children (AU Kids Online) and combines it with analysis of in-depth qualitative interviews to construct the different frames of what passes for digital literacy for whom in which circumstances: and when such digital literacies can be plausibly denied. As one 14-16 year old told me: “I recently got Snapchat and I know what it’s for but […] I only got it to Snapchat friends that I know, but it can be used for something really different.” (Even his friends contested that statement.)


Evans, M. and Butkus, C. 1997, Regulating the emergent: cyberporn and the traditional media. Media International Australia, no. 85, November, pp. 62—69

Marshall, P. D. 1997, Technophobia: video games, computer hacks and cybernetics, Media International Australia, no. 85, November, pp. 70—78

Lelia Green is Professor of Communications at Edith Cowan University, in the School of Communications and Arts, and a co-Chief Investigator with the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation. She has been the first Chief Investigator on three ARC Discovery Grants and on four ARC Linkage Grants. Lelia is the author or co-author of over 80 refereed articles, book chapters and conference papers and co-edited Framing technology: society choice and change (1994, Green & Guinery). She is the author of The internet: an introduction to new media (Berg, 2010) and Communication, technology and society (Sage, 2002, also co-published as Technoculture: from alphabet to cybersex, Allen & Unwin, 2002).

Video Presentation by Yoshikazu Shiobara

Places for dialogue with others: a short reflection on the emergence of racism and the possibility of educational practices of everyday multiculturalism in contemporary Japan

A serious social issue in contemporary Japanese society is the rapid emergence of racism. From the sociological perspective it is the effect of the spreading sense of anxiety and vulnerability among people who are facing rapid social change. In particular, younger generations are likely to be influenced by racist discourses ubiquitously existing on the internet. In this paper I emphasize the importance of face-to-face communications with others for younger generations as a mode of multiliteracies, and the creation of “places for dialogue with others” as a part of educational practices, including screen literacy learning, in Japanese society.

Yoshikazu Shiobara is Professor of Sociology at Keio University, Japan. Research interests are multiculturalism and ethnic minority issues in Australia and Japan, looking at the implications of multiculturalism discourse for immigrant communities, as well as policies for indigenous peoples and asylum seekers. Publications include Tomo ni ikiru (living together in a multicultural society) (2012), Henkaku suru tabunka shugi he (toward multiculturalism as transformation) (2010), Neo riberarismu no jidai no tabunkashugi (multiculturalism in the era of neoliberalism) (2005).


The symposium will be spread over two consecutive half days (April 4-5). Registration fee is $100/$50 for both/one half days for established academics and $50 for postgraduates and early career researchers.

Click Here to Register

This Intermezzo Symposium is an initiative of the Cultural Studies Association of Australasia. It aims to foster collegiality amongst Cultural Studies scholars in the region and provide the opportunity for new ideas, developments and emerging projects to be discussed in a supportive environment.

The organisers acknowledge the support of the Australia Forum for Sexuality, Education and Health

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