Google Custom Search
Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YD UK
Home > Literacy Research Discussion group > Literacy Research Discussion Group

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.


Michaelmas term 2015




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


The proposed discussion will focus on the issues involved in establishing a Europe-wide research programme seeking to promote the concept of ‘cultural literacy’ as it applies to research practice .  The underlying aim of the European Cultural Literacy Programme (ECL) is epistemological: to broaden the base of what has traditionally been perceived as ‘the humanities’ against a background of increased scepticism towards their utility in a world dominated by economic and scientific priorities. This has implied reconsidering the relationship between a ‘humanities-led’ approach to research and the objectives and methodologies characteristic of social science and cultural studies.  It has become clear that the scope of humanities scholarship needs to be extended so that creative output can be addressed from a more social and cultural perspective and theorised accordingly.  While this is a challenge which the agendas of UK research councils are already striving to meet, the problem of how best, methodologically speaking, to ‘instrumentalise’ a new approach (in crude terms a kind of ‘toolkit’) remains problematic if not potentially self-defeating.  If the new approach is re-conceptualised as a form of ‘cultural literacy’, what does this imply in terms of core knowledge, methodology, and the capacity to generate imaginative solutions to long-standing social concerns?  My ‘essay’ is a working draft for the ECL steering group of which I have been invited to become a member.

The draft will be circulated in advance of our meeting on October 20th as a working paper for discussion by the members of the ‘literacies’ research group.

27 October 2015

B89, County South

Ibrar Bhatt, Educational Research,
Lancaster University

Going beyond A4: Academic engagement for multiple audiences

We in academia (including PhD students) spend a substantial proportion of our time writing, even though we may not always describe some of our activities as ‘writing’. In this talk I present some of my own reflections and experiences as a recent PhD graduate on the subject of writing for multiple audiences. I will focus on the major disruptions facing academic publishing and knowledge dissemination, and how these have brought forth new sets of writing demands which pose both challenges and opportunities for those working, or aspiring to work, in academia. Using the historical metaphor of the coffee house during the age of Enlightenment, I will discuss how much can be gained from writing within the forums and arenas outside of the academy.

3 November 2015

C89, County South

Michelle Lawson, Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University

‘Go out and make mistakes like the rest of us’:   Positioning strategies in an online migrant community

Lifestyle migration, the movement of relatively privileged people in search of a different, often better, way of life, is a growing research area that has seen little attention given to digital communication.  My research explores how a new life following migration is mediated through an online forum for British migrants in south-west France.  Wenger’s (1998) theory of community of practice was initially used to structure analysis of online activities.  I show how the operationalisation of constructs such as ‘shared repertoire’, for example, can explore linguistic patterning and routines of interaction, giving insights into community practices, relationships and discursive identity construction. 
However, a more developed model of language use is required in order to examine underlying issues of power within such communities. I show how Positioning Theory (Harré, 2012) offers relevant tools to analyse member positioning within the socially determined moral landscape of lifestyle migration, one with associated rights and duties. More recent analytical tools developed by Bamberg and Georgakopoulou (2008) are also utilised to explore the motivating (ideological) factors behind certain positioning acts.
The analysis of situated language both supports and extends existing themes within the sociological literature of lifestyle migration, giving a more nuanced account of the relationship between wider value systems and their local representations.

10 November 2015

C89, County South

Carmen Lee, Chinese University of Hong Kong

Hashtagging as a literacy practice: Textual Representations of the #HongKong #UmbrellaMovement on Instagram

As with other social movements, the 2014 Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong had a strong social media presence. This talk explores how the Movement was represented textually on Instagram, with a specific focus on how creating and adding hashtags became a salient literacy practice during the Movement.The study reported in this talk began with 700 posts on Instagram, all of which contain the Chinese hashtag #雨傘運動 (“Umbrella Movement”). Over 9,000 hashtags from these 700 posts were then categorized according to their language choice, discourse functions as well as their symbolic and indexical values. Findings from an initial analysis suggest that, unlike political hashtags on Twitter which tend to be descriptive and informative, a large proportion of Instagram hashtags during the Umbrella Movement are performative and affective in nature (e.g. #ilovehongkong, #supporthk). Drawing on interview data with selected Instagram users, I also discuss how written Cantonese and mixed language hashtags, among other local cultural symbols, have become powerful resources for participants to assert their unique “Hongkonger” identities. Through the lenses of affective politics, deglobalization, and authentication, this talk demonstrates the ways in which hashtags serve as an important tool for self-presentation online.

17 November 2015

B89, County South

Samantha Duncan, Institute of Education, London

Reading aloud in Lewisham: an exploration of adult reading aloud practices

This presentation will explore initial findings of a qualitative pilot study of the reading aloud practices of seventeen adults in the London Borough of Lewisham, and examine the possible next steps for a larger study. While the dominant contemporary image of reading is that of a silent activity, and within literacy provision it is frequently assumed that reading aloud is not a ‘natural,’ ‘real life’ adult practice, anecdote suggests that adults do indeed read aloud, but these practices are overwhelmingly undocumented. This pilot study was the first stage in developing a better understanding of contemporary adult reading aloud practices. Semi-structured interviews were used to ask adults whether, what, where, how and why they read aloud.  Initial findings reveal the ubiquitous nature of reading aloud in adult life, across a range of life and for different self-selected purposes, and reinforce the importance of expanding our conceptualisations of reading to recognise the diversity and changing-nature of real life practices. This presentation will ask participants to explore possible implications of the pilot study data and develop ideas for future work.

24 November 2015

C89, County South

Winnie Ho, Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University

Volunteering Literacies: An Ethnographic Case Study

Adult volunteers in voluntary youth groups, youth uniformed groups (UG) or cadet forces – like people in schools and workplaces – spend a substantial proportion of their time in writing and reading through community service. However, there has been little exploration of investigating the nature of reading and writing in the domain of voluntary UG in both Hong Kong and the United Kingdom.

Grounded in the perspectives of both literacy as social practice (Barton and Hamilton, 1998) and linguistic ethnography, my study explores the hybrid nature of the dominant and vernacular literacy practices of an adult volunteer from an aviation-centered UG in Hong Kong as a community of practice (Wenger, 1998). This volunteer drew on different resources to complete a vocational qualification and was engaged in various types of print-based and digital texts both in the physical volunteering context and on Facebook.

Based on analysis of written texts, including assignments and texts related to volunteering work and multimodal texts on Facebook, interviews and participant-observation, the study reveals that understanding this volunteer’s motivational factor and his needs can pave the way for learning resources development. The rise and popularity of Facebook will possibly change the way this UG think about the dynamics that can lead to both challenges and opportunities.


1 December


C89, County South

María José Valero, Universitat Pompeu Fabra

From “monolingual” language learning to multimodal meaning-making: a shift in research focus

In this talk, I will discuss the recent shift in my PhD research. First I will describe the initial approach of my investigation, which intended to be an ethnographically-oriented multiple case study on informal learning of English through participation in digital practices related to different online cultures (i.e. videogames, fashion blogging and scanlation). Then I will describe the problems I found when I first tried to analyze the collected data, namely the imposition of artificial divisions between multiple languages and modes and the resulting oversimplification of the participants’ meaning-making processes. I will relate these problems to several underlying theoretical biases, which can be summarized as follows: 1) I conceptualized the participants as learners on a developmental path that   ends with a command of the English language separate from the rest of languages and modes (Block, 2013); 2) I conceptualized languages as autonomous and bounded systems (cf. Blommaert, 2010); 3) I conceptualized language learning merely as the incorporation of linguistic forms (cf. García & Sylvan, 2011). Finally, I will describe my new research direction, which is aimed at understanding the semiotic work of the participants while engaged in the digital practices related to the online cultures with which they are affiliated. 

8 December 2015

LT11, Management School

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

Designing the academic self: session 1 of 4: who does the Internet think you are?

This is the first of four interactive workshops on the use of social media and metrics for PhD students and academics. This first workshop focuses on if and how emerging academics should be pro-active in create or ‘designing’ a coherent online presence. The session will include discussion of your online name, profile and keywords by which others might search for you, as well as the pros and cons of the most common sites through which your academic identity can be showcased.


Lent term 2016




12 January


19 January


Rachel Stubley, Linguistics and English Language, Lancaster University

Title TBC

26 January


Rodney Jones, University of Reading

Departmental talk. Date, time and place tbc


2 February


Uta Papen, Lancaster University

Hymns and prayers – can religious literacy practices support literacy teaching in schools?  

9 February


Peter Shukie, Blackburn College

Community Open Online Courses: What are the results of giving anyone the opportunity to teach in online space?


16 February

Charles Carter, A15

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

Designing the academic self, session 2 of 4

23 February


Wendy Crocker, Western University, Canada

1 March


Awena Carter, Lancaster University

8 March


Chris Bailey, University of Sheffield

15 March


Hissah Alruwaili, Lancaster University

'A Good Muslim? So you cannot Ignore the Opportunity for Da’wah': Faith and EFL Learners’ Practices of Choice & Autonomy



Summer term 2016




19 April


Concha Orna-Montesinos, Zaragoza University, Spain

26 April

Charles Carter, A15

Sharon McCulloch and TBC

Designing the academic self, session 3 of 4

3 May



10 May



17 May



24 May

Charles Carter, A15

Sharon McCulloch and TBC

Designing the academic self, session 4 of 4

31 May



7 June



14 June



21 June



July tbc




LRDG Meeting Record

Current Timetable


2015 : 2014 : 2013
2012 : 2011 : 2010
2009 : 2008 : 2007
2006 : 2005 : 2004
2003 : 2002 : 2001

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences homepage
Home | Literacy Research Discussion Group | Members | Affiliate Members | News | Literacies Log | Archive