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Literacy Research Discussion Group (LRDG)

Co-organisers: Julia Gillen and Sharon McCulloch.

Unless stated otherwise below, meetings are held every Tuesday during term time, 1.00 - 2.00 pm.

Here is the timetable for meetings of the Literacy Research Discussion Group.






13 October 2015

B89, County South

Karin Tusting, LRC
“It’s like every time you sat down to do some writing, an email comes in that takes you away from it.”  The place of email in the ecology of academics’ writing practices.

This talk will draw on data from the ESRC-funded project “Dynamics of Knowledge Creation: Academics writing in the contemporary university workplace”.  The project explores academics’ writing practices, across the full range of research, teaching and administrative writing, working with academics across different institutions and disciplinary backgrounds using repeated interviewing and observation to develop a detailed understanding of their practices.  In this paper, I will focus on academics’ email practices.  As the quote above suggests, email is often seen as being an interruption, something which takes away from the ‘real’ work.  And yet, as the digital platform most frequently spoken about by our participants by quite some margin, engaging with email takes up a significant proportion of academics’ working lives.  This talk will explore people’s experiences around emails, asking what it is that makes email such a challenging and yet such a central part of academics’ writing practices.

20 October 2015

C89, County South

Robert Crawshaw, European Languages and Culture, Lancaster University

European Cultural Literacy – the toolkit challenge

27 October 2015

B89, County South

Ibrar Bhatt, Educational Research,
Lancaster University

Going beyond A4: Academic engagement for multiple audiences.


3 November 2015

C89, County South

Diane Potts and Sharon McCulloch, Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University

Designing the academic self, session 1 of 4

10 November 2015

C89, County South

Carmen Lee, Chinese University of Hong Kong

17 November 2015

C89, County South

Samantha Duncan, Institute of Education, London
Reading aloud in Lewisham: an exploration of adult reading aloud practices

24 November 2015

C89, County South

Winnie Ho, Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University

Volunteering Literacies

1 December


C89, County South

Maria Jose


8 December

C89, County South

Karin Tusting and Sharon McCulloch, Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University

Designing the academic self: session 2 of 4


Lent term 2016




12 January


19 January


26 January



2 February


9 February


16 February


23 February


Wendy Crocker, Western University, Canada

1 March



8 March

15 March

19 April

26 April


3 May


10 May


17 May


24 May


31 May


7 June


14 June


21 June


July tbc


2015 for information





27 January 2015

C89, County South

Discussion chaired by Julia Gillen
How do I:  Get my first paper published?  Apply for a research grant?

In this supportive discussion we will share expertise on getting published and writing successful research grant applications in the broad field of Literacy Studies.  Everyone is welcome to attend, whatever their level of experience.  During the discussion there will be an opportunity to ask questions anonymously, and questions can also be submitted in advance by emailing Julia  ( 

10 February 2015

C89, County South

Joanne Thistlethwaite, Lancaster University

The use of Irish in the Linguistic Landscape (LL) of Ennis
This talk investigates the extent to which the Irish language is displayed on the Linguistic Landscape (LL) of Ennis, a west-coast town in the Republic of Ireland.
Irish is the first official and national language, yet only a small minority of the people in Ireland speak it as a first language (<5%).  As such, Irish appears by law, often alongside English, on most official signs. I analyse the conventions apparently guiding the inclusion of Irish on signs; in terms of its visual arrangement and linguistic characteristics as well as its interaction with any English language units.
I go on to link these ‘conventions’ with interview data from the individual sign ‘owners’ using an overarching nexus analysis approach (Scollon and Wong-Scollon, 2004).. Ultimately, I conclude that the relative lack of Irish on the ‘private’ LL can be viewed as the product of a complex of ideologies leading to, and also perhaps enabling, the ‘passive exclusion’ of Irish, (via social inaction) among (L1) English-speaking Irish society. This social inaction on the ‘private’ LL reveals the media/government/revivalist discourses, which predict the imminent return of a bilingual Ireland, to be highly unrealistic.

17 February 2015

B89, County South

Julia Gillen, Lancaster University
Yellow umbrellas– recontextualisation in multimodal literacy practices of the Hong Kong student protests of November 2014.

The convergence of student protests and the Occupy movement in Hong Kong has brought about an extraordinary flowering of “literacy as design” (Kress, 2003).  Students demanding greater democracy occupied three areas of central Hong Kong. On 28th September police attacked protesters with tear gas; umbrellas were one of the defensive measures used and the yellow umbrella became the chief emblem of the movement.  The Umbrella Movement evolved into an extraordinary three-sited flourishing of multimodal artefacts that simultaneously embed the criticality, multimodality and design characteristic of multiliteracies (Lankshear and Knobel, 2007; Gillen and Passey 2011).

I visited two of the Umbrella Revolution sites in the first week of November, 2014 taking photographs, collecting media, and talking with protesters and others with a variety of viewpoints.  I have been assisted by students from Hong Kong in identifying an immense reach of cultural references.  I will focus on three multimodal artefacts: a yellow umbrella, a sculpture of a tank and a map. Each demonstrates criticality in the present and imagination in design that simultaneously elicits knowledge from “readers” of salient recontextualisations from past decades and even centuries.   Our analyses demonstrate wonderful instances of “transformed practice, in which pupils, as meaning-makers, become designers of social futures” (Cope and Kalantzis, 2000: 7).

24 February 2015

C89, County South

James Taylor, Department of History, Lancaster University
Researching the reception of advertising in early twentieth-century Britain
I am a historian interested in researching the reception of advertising in Britain in the first half of the twentieth century. This informal presentation discusses available sources, including Mass Observation reports, novels, and adverts designed by members of the public for newspaper competitions and school projects. And it asks for input both on possible methodologies and on the viability of such a research project.

10 March 2015

C89, County South

Diane Potts, Lancaster University
Changing practices, changing perceptions: EAL students’ response to multimodal feedback
Within the field of second language writing, the impact of digital technologies on feedback is largely confined to discussions of mode: the traditional categories of written feedback and face-to-face writing conferences have been expanded to include online feedback provided by peers and tutors in synchronous and asynchronous environments. However, the impact of digital annotation tools on teachers’ feedback practices is far less researched. Nor are there any significant inquiries into EAL students’ perceptions of changing feedback practices, including changes in the range of semiotic resources (ex. audio, color, graphics) teachers employ.  Using data collected by a TEFL Masters student, I explore student responses to feedback as multimodal ensemble. Data for the study includes text analysis, student interviews, and guided reflections. While students commented on increased clarity and comprehensibility, some of the most interesting findings pertain to affect and shifts in construed interpersonal relations. These were almost entirely linked to prosody, which appeared to enhance the students’ sense of alignment between their interests and the interests of the tutor. I close by discussing the unique dynamics of the supervisor-student relations when a student sets out to research their supervisor’s/my practices.

17 March 2015

C89, County South

Virginie Thériault,  Lancaster University
Discussion of Lamarre’s article (2014) ‘Bilingual winks and bilingual wordplay in Montreal's linguistic landscape’
In Québec, legislation regulates the language of public and commercial signage. As intended, this has transformed the linguistic landscape (LL) of Montreal, which looks more French than just three decades ago. But if we stop looking and actually listen to the city’s soundscape, what is clear is that Montreal is a much more bilingual and multilingual city with a population increasingly able to read signs both in English and in French. Interestingly, in the Montreal LL can be found a number of commercial signs that are nothing less than wry “bilingual winks” that circumvent legislation, sometimes with quite wicked skill, and play with French and English. These bilingual winks are clearly intended for a population with the language skills to catch the wink and can be interpreted as manifestations of the increasing number of complex language repertoires, but also of a bilingual aesthetic that revels in disrupting and claiming space. It would also seem, however, that while a certain amount of covert bilingual creativity has been inspired by the legal constraints imposed in Québec, bilingual wordplay has simply found ways of creeping into the LL, despite the politics of language and legislation.
Contact Cael Rooney for a copy of the paper or visit C06, County South.

23 April 2015

C89, County South

Joint session with SLLAT Gail Forey
Workshop: Register Shift & Multisemiotic Resources Found in the Science Classroom

(County South C89, 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm)

Talk: Professional Development & Evolving Ownership (County South C89, 4 pm to 5 pm)

For details see

28 April 2015

B89, County South

Natasa Lackovic, Department of Educational Research, Lancaster University
“Do photographs “talk” in lectures and how? The Case for Critical Semiotic Literacy as a Part of Multiliteracies and Multimodality in Academic Practice”

Natasa will present a study and related draft paper which fall under the umbrella of multiliteracies, multimodality and semiotics. The study explores how lecturers talk about the photographs they include in their lectures. The data were collected from 22 Power Point presentations on the same topic in undergraduate Psychology at 16 UK universities. A semiotic taxonomy of the uses which lecturers made of photographs in their talk was developed. The outcomes of the study lead towards an argument in favour of Critical Semiotic Exploration of photographs and all texts in HE, making the case for the introduction of multiliteracies and multimodality approaches in HE practice. The talk builds on the PhD research by Dr Madeline Hallewell and the draft paper Madeline and Natasa have written together, Natasa leading on the semiotic analysis of data.

5 May 2015

C89, County South

David Barton, Lancaster University
Mixed methods to examine the dynamics of an online dispute

I am analysing a conflict between Yahoo’s Flickr photo site and its users, following a major reorganisation of the site layout. Nearly thirty thousand overwhelmingly negative comments were posted on the Flickr discussion forum. This adds up to a corpus of more than 1.7M words. The paper aims to understand the dynamics of an online dispute and to make sense of users’ practices. It combines detailed qualitative analysis of a small number of comments with a corpus analysis of all the comments. I will report on 2 aspects of the analysis. Firstly linguistic stance analysis is used to understand the figured world of social actors, revealing how people position themselves in relation to what they are saying and how they feel about it. The second analysis concentrates on people’s online practices. They articulated a strong sense of ownership and felt that by contributing to the website and structuring parts of it they have created something which they should have some rights over. Such practices can be seen as acts of curation of the internet, identified by a set of ‘verbs of curation’. Finally I locate this particular dispute in broader tensions between owners and users and growing concerns globally about the control of the internet. In terms of methodology, I will enthusiastically discuss the value of including a corpus analysis in what was initially a qualitative study. There will be time to look at data in the session.

12 May 2015

C89, County South

Ami Sato, Lancaster University
How can we find ‘here’ in online threaded conversations?

The present paper addresses some methodological issues for researching threaded conversations online. In my on-going doctoral research, I am examining building rapport in different types of online discussion fora in order to understand how the participants maintain interpersonal relationships through computer-mediated communication. This paper focuses on threaded conversations on the online link sharing and discussion site Reddit, looking at one element of rapport, that is, closeness. My question for closeness in the computer-mediated environment links to the conception of space. How do the participants increase closeness in “relational spaces” or spaces “created by the ‘state of talk’ between participants” (Jones, 2005, p.144)? One of the explicit ways to refer to the relational space is deixis. This talk explores closeness by analysing the explicit and implicit constructions of ‘here’ as a relational space. One methodological challenge for this approach is due to Reddit’s unique features, namely a voting system and a comment sorting system. These technological features change the sequences of a threaded conversation through the participants’ practices of reading/viewing and writing/posting comments. To find ‘here’ in a threaded conversation, further analysis is needed.

18 - 19 May 2015

Bronwyn T. Williams, University of Louisville (Visit part sponsored by Higher Education Academy)

Workshop for MA students Monday 18th May 2 – 4pm
Workshop for PhD students Tuesday 19th May 9.30 – 11.30am
Strategies for Organizing, Writing – and Surviving - a Large-Scale Project

Writing a dissertation or thesis can seem a daunting prospect that raises questions about structure, organization, as well as how best to manage your writing process. This workshop will offer strategies for how to approach a large-scale writing project such as a dissertation or thesis. We will discuss the genre and rhetorical conventions expected in such projects, for example the conventions in sections such as such as literature reviews and methods discussions, and where those conventions may differ from other academic writing experiences of graduate students. We will also talk about suggestions and tips for getting started on your project, making consistent progress, working with faculty comments, and staying motivated (and sane). Bring your questions and concerns both large and small, so we can talk about your project. 

If you wish to attend either of the workshops, it is essential you register.  To register, please email Lucy MacCulloch

19 May 2015

C89, County South

Bronwyn T. Williams, University of Louisville
Memory, Narrative, and the Construction of Literate Identities

Although we often elicit students’ stories about their literacy experiences, in research or in the classroom, we tend to respond to such histories primarily as glimpses of the past rather than moments on the paths that extend into potential futures. Recent research into memory and narrative, however, demonstrates that our imagined futures are always constructed from our memories and the identities and emotional dispositions they have created. The student who identifies herself as a “bad writer” or who “hates to write” has constructed that identity from a particular narrative that she has applied to experiences and memories, with each new memory more likely to be adapted to that narrative than to challenge it. In this presentation I draw on recent research from psychology and neuroscience to discuss how we can understand the important role of narrative and memory in the construction of students’ literate identities, both in and out of the classroom. I draw on interviews and observations from a two-year research project involving students in the U.S. and U.K to illustrate how students’ memories and narratives of past literacy practices shape their current perceptions of agency. Yet such narratives, and the identities as well as the imagined futures they construct, are recursive and malleable. New narratives or interpretations of our memories can help reshape an individual’s perspective on such events, as well as what they believe is possible in their future writing practices. I conclude with a brief discussion of how the constructed nature of memory provides an opportunity to engage students with different ways of interpreting their experiences, as well as a means of imagining alternative narratives of their literate identities in the future.

2 June 2015

Lake District Trip

9 June 2015

C89, County South

Chair: Julia Gillen
Our favourite books in Literacy Studies

Bring along, or just talk about, one of your favourite books in Literacy Studies. Everyone attending is asked to introduce a book in about two minutes or so, and we will then discuss themes, topics and where the field of Literacy Studies appears to be heading.

16 June 2015

C89, County South

James Duncan, Lancaster University
Protest Literacies

2013 in Brazil was a year of protests. From 1st January to 31st December there were 696 street protests reported in mainstream news, 15 of which had more than 50,000 people with demonstrations in Rio de Janeiro reaching 300,000 around the city centre on 20th June. Rio would undergo continued unrest over 2014 in the build-up to the World Cup and the Presidential Elections thereafter. Though there were hundreds of events in the street referred to as protests, the ideologies and interests of those demonstrating differed radically across times and locations. In an ethnography of protest literacies based on one year of fieldwork, I start from one small protest in a complex of 16 favelas known as Maré. The event is a telling case for two reasons. Firstly, locals contest themes central to favela-based social movements over 2013-2014: Rio’s “pacification” policing, “evictions” and what is referred to as “white gentrification”. Secondly, the event involves practices of grassroots protest media that were highly characteristic. These incorporate a range of uses of literacy from the producing and circulating of protest signs and pamphlets, including speeches and conversations around their written themes, to SNS posting, blogging, and article writing. I participated with three groups of actors who produced such media: a favela-based community newspaper, a politically engaged art collective, and a “popular” assembly. The ethnography develops around the practices of these three groups, as three different but interlinking perspectives on protests. In a presentation for the LRDG, I introduce the work by describing this telling case through discussing its literacy practices of reunion, contestation and remembrance.



1 July 2015


SR23 Bowland North

Catherine Beavis, Griffith University

Increasingly complex and sophisticated texts’: digital games, literacy and design

The Australian Curriculum: English has as its first aim that students need to “learn to listen to, read, view, speak, write, create and reflect on increasingly complex and sophisticated spoken, written and multimodal texts across a growing range of contexts with accuracy, fluency and purpose” (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority 2013). A central concept here is literacy as design. In an expanded view of literacy, where multiliteracies and multimodal texts are seen as a central part of young people’s textual worlds, the incorporation and study of digital texts within English and related curriculum areas has become an important priority. Computer games, and digital games more generally, arguably epitomise new narrative and textual forms. While it is misleading to think of digital games as purely textual, they are quintessentially multimodal, combining a wide range of symbol systems in order to be able to be made, read and played. The Serious Play research project set out to understand more about the kinds of literacies and literacy practices entailed in computer games and game play, and what it might mean for teaching, learning and curriculum for computer games to be taken seriously as multimodal textual forms. In this presentation, I focus on two dimensions of this research. First, taking the example of Statecraft X, a ipod game designed to teach civics and citizenship, I focus on the kinds of ‘reading’ entailed in playing games, the ways in which readers/players understand and negotiate meaning through largely visual and multimodal forms, and the kinds of reasoning and collaboration that enables games to support learning in curriculum areas such as SOSE. In the second half of the presentation the focus shifts to Minecraft, the highly popular commercial game, to explore matters of making and design, identity, creativity and display, and the ways in which such elements weave in and out of school and home-based play.












LRDG Meeting Record

Forthcoming Events


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