Shaping cultures: Prizing the literacies of technology

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date



Department of Humanities


As we have noted in previous chapters, the degree to which new literacies assume importance and become accessible to particular groups and individual people, or don’t, has much to do with the prevailing cultural ecology of the times: that complex intermingling of social, historical, political, and material forces within which human beings live their lives. Within this larger cultural ecology, the concept of culture figures prominently-at the macro-, medial, and micro-levels-in shaping communities’ and peoples’ attitudes and in encouraging the acquisition of both traditional literacies and the literacies of technology. Cultures, on a micro-level, coalesce around factors such as race, religion, ethnicity, belief, lifestyle, geography, ideology, and so on. But, in addition, micro-level cultures shape, and are often shaped by, larger cultural groups with which they are affiliated at the medial and macro-levels, such as society’s many institutions, organizations, and even corporate structures. Cultures, in other words, consist of-and are constituted by-the social practices of a people across time and space. Jay Lemke (1995) would say that they are constituted by the texts that people produce and the meanings that they make, through their various semiotic systems: their oral and written discourses, their visual symbols and signs, their behaviors and interpersonal practices. Thus, literacy practices and values are constitutive of culture, and they are fashioned by culture at the micro-, medial, and macro-levels.

Publication Title

Literate Lives in the Information Age: Narratives of Literacy From the United States