Multiliteracy Centers Beyond the Digital Bridge
"The newest computer can merely compound, at speed, the oldest problem in the relations between human beings, and in the end the communicator will be confronted with the old problem, of what to say and how to say it."
- Edward R. Murrow on receiving the "Family of Man" Award (1964)
As we move in the direction of multiliteracy centers, perhaps trailing desperately behind the exponential march of technology and all its potential wonders, we will inevitably make some mistakes. We will certainly be surprised, watch our careful predictions crumble under the weight of yet unseen forces, and then wonder how it was we missed something that then will seem so obvious. Given such potential realities and the history upon which we now rely to construct our guesses about them, it might be tempting to simply wait and see, pick up the pieces, and then make our apologies. Such an approach, however, cannot properly respect that same history. Let us instead take a closer look at our past and at our present conversations and, in so doing, preempt our future with the intention of heading off those mistakes for which repetition is now inexcusable. For, as Arthur Schlesinger suggested in his New York Times piece, The Challenge of Change, “science and technology revolutionize our lives, but memory, tradition, and myth frame our response.” Let us then view our old stubbornness and the wisdom that later dislodged it as analogues to the present moment, and let us interrupt this too-slow conversation with the sort of vigor and forward-looking approach that befits our current age – the age of technology.
While vigor and a forward-looking approach cannot be sufficient to protect us completely from our own folly, they can act as catalysts for important conversations and salient questions about challenges and opportunities confronting the future of multiliteracy centers. Further, it is possible to find clues about these questions in the current research.
“Our technological powers increase, but the side effects and potential hazards also escalate.”
- Alvin Toffler, Future Shock, 1970.
In searching for these clues, we have selected some current research that seems most poised to echo forward into conversations a decade or more down the road. Given that 10 years has become a very long time in terms of technological progress, and such progress will continue to define the powers and potential hazards of multiliteracy centers imagined and realized in its wake, we examine this research with a careful eye. There are no guarantees when predicting progress, and such uncertainty, compels us to be both optimistic and cautious.
One such piece of current research that offers both potential and peril in its implications is Kate Pantelides’, “Negotiating What’s at Stake in Informal Writing in the Writing Center” (2012), in which she examines conflicts and questions at the intersection of student and instructor expectations, emergent understandings of online discourse, and the role(s) of informal writing in the digital space.