Transliteracy and Media Literacy

I’ve recently become fascinated by the surge of interest in the concept of Transliteracy.  One of the things I find fascinating is that, for a new term, it’s not really all that new. In a way, it’s just a fancy new term for media literacy with a few different twists. The Center for Media Literacy defines media literacy as:

a 21st century approach to education. It provides a framework to access, analyze, evaluate and create messages in a variety of forms — from print to video to the Internet. Media literacy builds an understanding of the role of media in society as well as essential skills of inquiry and self-expression necessary for citizens of a democracy.

Similarly, the National Association for Media Literacy Education states:

Media literacy– the ability to ACCESS, ANALYZE, EVALUATE, and COMMUNICATE information in a variety of forms-is interdisciplinary by nature. Media literacy represents a necessary, inevitable, and realistic response to the complex, ever-changing electronic environment and communication cornucopia that surround us.

Although media literacy began as a reaction to the perceived negative influence of Mass Media during the middle of the 20th century, it has evolved to include and analysis and understanding of a variety of emerging media. In this way, media literacy is not much different than transliteracy, which The International Federation of Library Associations (IFLA) defines as:

an umbrella term encompassing different literacies and multiple communication channels that require active participation with and across a range of platforms, and embracing both linear and non-linear messages.

Despite the fact that print is a communication medium, media literacy tends to focus on non-print or non-text print materials. Transliteracy attempts to be broader. IFLA, in its report “Transliteracy: take a walk on a wild side,” quotes Sue Thomas, who defines transliteracy as “what it means to be literate in the 21st Century,” that is, having a “unifying perspective” on the ability to “read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks.”

In this respect, media literacy can be considered a sub-topic of transliteracy. Regardless of how one chooses to use the terminology, the emerging field of transliteracy is building on the foundation set forth by media literacy.

Having a long-standing interest in media literacy in my work as a media librarian, the recent wave of interest in transliteracy fascinates me, and I hope to investigate and write more about it, especially as to how it relates to libraries.

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