Old yellow eyes

‘I drew a line, I drew a line for you, Oh what a thing to do, And it was all yellow….’ (Yellow, Coldplay)

I have been thinking about what digital literacy means to me. In some ways DL is not a cline: I don’t think it is possible to claim that one is ‘a bit digitally literate’ for example. We tend to see this in black and white, don’t we?. And this is not an aesthetic treatment of DL, it’s not chiaroscuro, for example. No, it’s black or white and I think it does matter, Michael!. I wonder about the way we think about these things and how it does resolve itself into competence and performance camps. This is an educational ‘treatment’ of ways of doing and being. In terms of children’s art consider two responses to the child who shows the teacher a painting of a house. The first teacher says ‘that’s interesting, tell me about it’; the second says ‘what a lovely house but you have forgotten the windows’. Which of these responses is teaching the child to draw? And is this different to teaching the child to see?

Richard's tulip's

Whose picture is this?

I was encouraged to ‘look’ at Richard Johnson’s excellent workshop recently. We were drawing the tulips. ‘Can you see the blues … look closely in the folds … see the reds, a kind of orange in the shadows … and see there the purples’. I looked. I looked really hard. I carried on looking  But blow me if I could only see yellow. It was all yellow! Am I deviant? Was this the ‘king’s new palette’?

Basil Bernstein talks about an acquired gaze and how important this is in education (‘truth is a matter of an acquired gaze; no-one can be eyeless in this Gaza’ (1999, p.165). I prefer to believe that this is not something we are born with, although I can be convinced that a social gaze can be acquired from a person’s status position, his social category, and possibly gender and race. What I am surer about is that gaze can be cultivated; that is a social disposition acquired through education and enculturation. And if we can be shown the underlying structure of things we can acquire a ‘trained gaze’.

To be able to see Digital Literacy for what it is I need to be able to look more closely at it. This goes beyond seeing how it is described and manifested, and how it is treated. I need to see the underlying elements that shape its form: what ‘being good at digital drawing’ means for example, and how it is constructed. David Hockney has been interested for some time in how drawing is made in a printing machine, and how we become invented by our technologies. In attempting to draw the tulip I was of course drawing myself.

Basil Bernstein (1999): Vertical and Horizontal Discourse: An essay, British Journal of Sociology of Education, 20:2, 157-173


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