Friday, April 20, 2012

Happy Dance - Video Project



video

Here it is! The final product for the video assignment. The culture I am studying is Nerdfighteria, the virtual subculture that spread through Hank and John Green's YouTube channel, vlogbrothers. If you're familiar with vlogbrothers, chances are you've seen Hank and John do their happy dances (if not, you'll see them later in this video). So in response to that, I created this. Enjoy.

"Happy Dance" Storyboard

It's alive... IT'S ALIVE!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Do Your Happy Dance

So here’s what I’m doing for my video. There’s this thing the vlogbrothers call the Happy Dance. Apparently everyone has one, and it’s the dance you do when you’re incredibly happy. Hank and John’s happy dances are pretty ridiculous... There’s a lot of flailing involved. If you want to take a gander, just click here and start watching at 3:45. Anyways, I want to do a video about Happydanceology: the Study of the Happy Dance. I'd like to start out with the definition of the Happy Dance:

Happy Dance (n) The dance one does when one is incredibly happy; the most clear and distinct way to physically express pure Awesome

That's gonna be an overdub. While that's going on, I'm gonna be showing clips of people Happy Dancing. Then I'm going to explain how the Happy Dance phenomenon began on Brotherhood 2.0 with Hank and John doing their happy dances (cue video of them happy dancing).

Then it's time to explain the way happy dances tend to operate (whether they're arm-centric, leg-centric, or  a combination of the two). There will be clips illustrating each type.

After that, I'm going to just play a tune and show some more folks happy dancing. I'm going to end the video by saying, "So how do you happy dance?" and showing a video of myself happy dancing.

Fin.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Nerd Appeal - Redeux

Joining the Nerdfighter community is by far the most interesting aspect of vlogbrother culture. Typically when someone becomes part of a community, she is either born into that community, or she is required to fill a list of prerequisites to gain membership. I often see the latter form of community inclusion in the context of my college experience, when, at the beginning of each semester, hundreds of hopeful girls rush the sorority of their choice. Processes like these are extensive and exclusive; the existing members of the community choose whether others are able to join based on a series of qualifications, like where they are from, what their interests are, or who their contacts are. This is where the Nerdfighter community is unique. There is only one qualification for becoming a Nerdfighter: you have to want to be a Nerdfighter. In this sense, Nerdfighteria acts like Facebook—as long as you have an email address, you can join DFTBA Records, get involved in the social networking site, (Nerfighters.com), or simply subscribe to the vlogbrothers' videos. In any case, if you call yourself a Nerdfighter, you are one.

It is this inclusivity that Nerdfighters and non-Nerdfighters believe makes Nerdfighteria so appealing to a wide range of people. I asked a member of the Nerdfighter community, my friend Taylor, some questions regarding her involvement in Nerdfighteria. Taylor began watching vlogbrothers in 2009, two years after Brotherhood 2.0 made the Green brothers a YouTube phenomenon. She has read all of John Green’s books, attended the 2012 Tour de Nerdfighting, has met John and Hank and the Katherine, and she is subscribed to many of the vlogbrothers partner channels (such as charlieissocoollike, nerimon, crashcourse, etc.). When I asked her what she believes makes Nerdfighteria appealing to so many people, she responded by saying, “I believe that Nerdfighteria is so appealing to people because it has a place for anyone who wants to belong there.”

As a Nerdfighter, I can attest to Taylor’s theory. People involved in Nerdfighteria are incredibly diverse. The vlogbrothers audience is represented by six continents. No two Nerdfighters are the same. Some are interested in literature, some in music, and some in visual art. Nerdfighteria encompasses a variety of interests, and the Green brothers, as well as the community as a whole, do a relatively good job at covering them.

I conducted an interview with my classmate, Logan, who was unfamiliar with the vlogbrothers community until I familiarized him with the culture. During our interview I explained to Logan Brotherhood 2.0, vlogbrothers, nerdfighters.com, and DFTBA records. He seemed interested in the project, saying, “I think it’s really cool what they’re doing.” I asked him what he thought made vlogbrothers appealing to so many people, and he responded by saying, “They have such a huge audience... because they’re in so many different medias. They cover broad interests.” He referred to a vlogbrothers video I showed him in which John Green talked about his college friends. During the video, John referred to several different forms of media including literature, photography, and film. This singular video was enough to show Logan how diverse Nerdfighteria could be. When I asked him if he would consider becoming part of Nerdfighteria after learning more about it, he responded, “Yeah, it’s really interesting... it sounds like there’s something for everybody there.”

Evidence shows the reason people like Nerdfighteria is because they feel welcome there no matter their interests.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Nerd Appeal

Becoming part of the Nerdfighter community is perhaps the most interesting aspect of vlogbrother culture. Typically when someone becomes part of a community, she is either born into that community, or she is required to fill a list of prerequisite qualifications in order to gain membership to that community. I often see the latter form of community inclusion in the context of my college experience, when, at the beginning of each semester, hundreds of hopeful girls rush the sorority of their choice. Processes like these are extensive and exclusive; the existing members of the community choose whether you are able to join based on a series of qualifications, like where you’re from, what your interests are, or who you have contacts with. This is where the Nerdfighter community is unique. There is only one qualification for becoming a Nerdfighter: you have to want to become a Nerdfighter. This community acts more like Facebook—as long as you have an email address, you can create an account with DFTBA Records or even get involved in the social networking site on Nerfighters.com. Or your participation in the community could be as minimal as simply watching the vlogbrothers YouTube videos. If you call yourself a Nerdfighter, you are one.

It is this inclusivity that both Nerdfighters and non-Nerdfighters seem to think is what makes Nerdfighteria so appealing to a wide range of people. I asked a member of the Nerdfighter community, my friend Taylor, some questions regarding her involvement in Nerdfighteria. Taylor began watching vlogbrothers in 2009, two years after Brotherhood 2.0 made the Green brothers a YouTube phenomenon. She has read all of John Green’s books, attended the 2012 Tour de Nerdfighting, has met John and Hank and the Katherine, and she is subscribed to many of the vlogbrothers partner channels (such as charlieissocoollike, nerimon, crashcourse, etc.). When I asked her what she believes makes Nerdfighteria appealing to so many people, she responded by saying, “I believe that Nerdfighteria is so appealing to people because it has a place for anyone who wants to belong there.” 

As a Nerdfighter, I can attest to Taylor’s theory. People involved in Nerdfighteria are incredibly diverse. The vlogbrothers audience is represented by six continents. No two Nerdfighters are the same. Some are interested in literature, some in music, and some are interested in visual art. There are so many diverse interests, and the Green brothers, as well as the community as a whole, do a relatively good job at covering a variety of interests. 

I conducted an interview with my classmate, Logan, who was unfamiliar with the vlogbrothers community until I familiarized him with the culture. During our interview I explained to Logan Brotherhood 2.0, vlogbrothers, nerdfighters.com, and DFTBA records. He seemed interested in the project, saying, “I think it’s really cool what they’re doing.” I asked him what he thought made vlogbrothers appealing to so many people, and he responded by saying, “They have such a huge audience... because they’re in so many different medias. They cover broad interests.” He referred to a vlogbrothers video I showed him that involved John Green talking about some people he knew in college, during which John referred to several different forms of media including literature, photography, and film. This singular video was enough to show Logan how diverse Nerdfighteria could be. When I asked him if he would consider becoming part of Nerdfighteria after learning more about it, to which he responded, “Yeah, it’s really interesting... it sounds like there’s something for everybody there.” 

So it seems as though the reason people like Nerdfighteria is because they are welcome there no matter what their interests are.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Nerdfighter Archives

Brotherhood 2.0 video archives can be found here. These videos can be useful in tracing the origins of Nerfighteria.

A complete vlogbrothers video archive is located here. Many of these videos are also transcribed, which is incredibly useful. Much of the same kind of information can be found here, but in a less organized format.

Wiki Pages:
John Green
Hank Green
Vlogbrothers

Monday, March 12, 2012

Nerdfighteria: A Tentative Glossary

Awesome (n) Shorthand for “awesomeness”; the matter out of which all good things are created

Brotherhood 2.0 (n) The YouTube video project involving Hank and John Green in which the two were prohibited from textually communicating with each other for the entire year of 2007; the foundation of Nerdfighteria

Brotherhood2.com (n) the official website for the Brotherhood 2.0 project; houses a Brotherhood 2.0 video archive, information about the project, and the My Pants forum

Decepticon (n) The opposite of a Nerdfighter

Decepticonian (adj.) Referring to something which is the opposite of awesome (derived from decepticon)
DFTBA (expression) Don't Forget To Be Awesome; often used as a valediction

DFTBA Records (n) The record company created by Hank and John Green, Alan Lastufka, Kristen Franklin, and Sam Rudge; hosts many YouTube artists, and sells music and merchandise for these artists on their website dftba.com

EBO (n) The Evil Baby Orphanage; a hypothetical project where Nerdfighters go back in time and take babies that will become evil adults and put them in an orphanage in Tibet
EcoGeek.org (n) The website Hank Green runs; a blog about the symbiosis between nature and technology

The Foundation to Decrease WorldSuck (n) also known as FDW, or the Brotherhood 2.0 Foundation for Decreasing Suck Levels Worldwide; a foundation created by Hank and John Green with the purpose of decreasing WorldSuck by doing things that make the world a better place, like donating to charities

French The Llama (expression) Often abbreviated FTL; used as an expression of excitement or incredulousness, much like “holy cow” or “gee whiz”

Giant Squid of Anger (n) A Youtube troll, or someone who leaves nasty comments on Youtube videos.

gigacools (n) The unit measure of Awesome

Happy Dance (n) The dance one does when one is incredibly happy; the most clear and distinct way to physically express pure Awesome

Hankian (adj.) Referring to something that has to do with Hank Green

jokes (adj.) A slang term used to describe something that is cool or awesome

The Katherine (n) Hank's wife

made of Awesome (expression) used when describing something that is especially good or cool; for example, John’s book The Fault in Our Stars is made of Awesome

My/Your Pants (n) The online forum in which Nerdfighters can participate, located at yourpants.org; also used in the context of the phrase “in my pants,” which, as discovered by Maureen Johnson, also sounds funny at end of book titles

Nerdfightastic (adj.) The act of being like a Nerdfighter; refers to being awesome

Nerdfighter (n) A pro-nerd term used to describe followers of vlogbrothers; a regular person, except instead of being composed of tissues and cells and organs, they are made of Awesome; someone who fights for all things awesome

Nerdfighter gathering (n) A gathering of Nerdfighters; Hank and John Green may or may not be present at these events

Nerdfighteria (n) The Nerdfighter community. Nerdfighteria is not restricted to any particular geographical area; rather, it is a group of people who share similarities in interests and cultural habits.

NIT (n) Nerdfighter In Training

notsome (adj.) The antithesis of awesome

Puff Levels (n) The height of John’s hair; has a direct correlation to stress levels (the higher the stress level, the higher the Puff Level)

punishment (n) Issued during Brotherhood 2.0 when a brother breaks a project rule (e.g. textually communicating, uploading a video late, or uploading a video over four minutes in length); punishments must be wife-approved and are issued by the brother who did not break a rule.
Secret Sibling (n) A Nerdfighter who makes video responses to the vlogbrothers

Stuff on Heads (n) The belief that if you put stuff on your head, it makes you feel better about life

Tiny Chicken Disease (n) A disease in which tiny chickens lay eggs in your head, and all the goo leaks out of your nose; also known as the common cold

Tour de Nerdfighting (n) The tour held first in 2008 and again in 2012, when the Green brothers travel the country and hold Nerdfighter gatherings about John’s book, Hank’s music, and Nerdfighteria.

vlogbrothers (n) Hank and John Green’s YouTube channel; hosts the Brotherhood 2.0 project as well as their other videos

WorldSuck (n) The amount of suck in the world

Worldsuck Index (n) A gauge of suck levels; ranges from low (like corndogs, which don’t suck) to severe (like malaria)

The Yeti (n) John's wife, Sarah

Friday, March 2, 2012

Chuck On Shuffle - Redeux



Chuck Klosterman is believable, or credible, as a writer because of his honesty. He is very transparent in his writing; he gives his opinion about anything and everything, no matter how brutal or frank. Even though his pieces are notoriously slanted, Klosterman presents his opinions in a way that helps his readers to understand him as a writer.

Klosterman's voice is another thing that effectively portrays his attention to detail. Throughout the article, Klosterman posts links that lead to resources about the subject matter of the article. He makes it easy for the reader to understand exactly what he is talking about for the entire article. Without these links, we would have to take Klosterman's word for it. With the links, we are able to experience it for ourselves.

Overall, Klosterman's writing appears credible simply because he writes intelligently. His writing makes him sound intelligent, and that makes people trust him to a certain extent.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Chuck On Shuffle

Chuck Klosterman: Me, On Shuffle

What makes Chuck Klosterman's writing believable, or credible in a sense, is his honesty. He is very transparent in his writing; he gives his opinion about anything and everything, no matter how brutal or frank. Even though his pieces are notoriously slanted, Klosterman presents his opinions in a way that helps his readers to understand him as a person and a writer.

Another thing that effectively portray's Klosterman's voice is his attention to detail. Throughout the article, links are posted so the reader can understand exactly what Klosterman is talking about the whole time. Without these links, we would have to take Klosterman's word for it, but with the links, we are able to experience it for ourselves.

Overall, Klosterman's writing appears credible simply because he writes intelligently. You can tell from reading his articles that he is a smart man, and that makes people trust him to a certain extent.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Outsider View: Nerdfighteria


What is the appeal of vlogbrothers? How are Hank and John Green able to entertain their audience in a way different from other forms of public media?

I sat down with Logan Anderson, a fellow college student at Belmont University, to talk about Nerdfighteria. I started our conversation by asking a few questions about his familiarity with YouTube and Nerdfighteria. Logan identifies himself as a casual video watcher, saying, "I never really utilize my YouTube account that much. I just have it." I asked him if he had ever heard of vlogbrothers before our interview. He replied that he "had never heard of vlogbrothers, but [he] had heard of John just because he wrote those books." John Green, the oldest brother, is the author of several New York Times' Bestselling novels, such as Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars. While Logan was not familiar with Nerdfighteria, he was familiar with John Green’s work and his popularity in the youth fiction genre.

I decided that it would be best to show Logan a video to familiarize him with vlogbrothers, the foundation of Nerdfighteria. We proceeded to watch one of John Green’s video blog posts entitled, “Life is Wierd. Also Beautiful” in which John explains his friendship with several interesting people he knew in college. When the video was over, I asked Logan what his immediate impression of vlogbrothers was, to which he responded, “I like how he chops up the video. I don’t know if they always do that...” I explained that each of the vlogbrothers videos is , as a rule, under four minutes. “Oh, okay, so they try to get, like, very fast,” Logan responded, snapping his fingers, “alright, that’s cool, that’s really cool, then. I like that. Because it keeps you entertained. I didn’t really deviate at all, but if it was just him talking I probably would have deviated, or my mind would have wandered. But I think it’s really cool what they’re doing.”

Now that Logan had seen a vlogbrothers video, I asked him what he thought made vlogbrothers so appealing to their 650,000+ subscribers. According to Logan, “they pull in a huge audience because they’re in so many different medias. They cover broad interests.” What he meant was that Nerdfighteria was popular because there is something for everyone, from musicians to science geeks to literature buffs.

I then showed Logan a little more of what Nerdfighteria was like by taking them to their various websites, including Nerdfighters.com, DFTBA.com, and Hank and Johns other YouTube channels. When asked if he would consider being more involved in Nerdfighteria after seeing everything Hank and John are involved in, Logan replied, “Yeah, it’s really interesting. I should utilize this. Their YouTube channel’s really cool-looking. I didn’t know anything about [nerdfighters.com]. It’s like a whole ‘nother universe or something, I had no idea. But yes, totally, it sounds like there’s something for everybody there, so.” Knowing something more about Nerdfighteria changed Logan’s initial impression of it. While at first he seemed indifferent toward the virtual subculture, he ended the interview by explaining how it helped shape his opinion of John, “I didn’t know what John’s personality was or anything, so now I know. Now I can definitely see why he’s so nerdy in his writing and stuff, so it’s nice to see that side, I guess, of people.”

Monday, February 13, 2012

Guns, Germs, and Steel - Reflection

What interested me most about how space and objects affect culture in Guns, Germs, and Steel is that geography seems to play a huge role in the success and power of a culture. Eurasian cultures have historically been the most prominent influences in the world; this is a result of colonization and thriving populations. But what made Eurasian people able to maintain such high numbers in population? The answer lies not within genetics, but within geography.

Some geographical areas are simply much better at providing natural resources which supply food and raw materials. This puts the culture inhabiting these areas at an advantage, because they do not have to work as hard to provide for themselves.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs describes the different levels of human needs: physiological, safety, love/belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. According to the hierarchy, the lowest, most basic needs (physiological needs) must be met before a person can achieve the higher ones (safety, love, esteem, and self-actualization). In the context of Guns, Germs, and Steel we see that the progression of Eurasian cultures happened more quickly because their geographical areas more readily provided people with the things they required to fill their most basic needs (food, air, water, sleep, etc.). Because of this, Eurasian cultures were free to move onto fulfilling more complex needs, giving them an edge against cultures whose more basic needs were less easily filled because of the geographical areas they inhabited.

Because people of the Eurasian cultures were well-sustained physically, their populations grew, which opened the door to new skill development. This in turn lead to a more advanced system of technologies, which allowed Eurasian cultures to develop powerful tools and weapons that made gaining power over other cultures much easier.

In short, the fertility of the Eurasian geographical area created a snowball effect. They did not rise to power because they were genetically superior to any other culture. They did so almost by chance. Eurasia owes much of its success to the land, to their availability to food.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Nerdfighteria: An Introduction

It was a summer afternoon in 2007. I had just logged onto YouTube to escape the Alabama heat and ingest my daily dose of home video entertainment. Watching YouTube videos had recently become a routine for me. I had transferred high schools the previous semester and managed to make absolutely no friends before summer break, which meant I had a lot of time to myself. So I filled that extra alone time with the people of YouTube—vloggers ranting about their lives, practical jokers testifying to their latest pranks, DIY-ers giving step-by-step tutorials on how to revamp clothing. This particular day was the same as the others. I scrolled down the site’s front page where the trending videos are posted in search of anything that might strike my fancy. A few scrolls down, and a video labeled “Accio Deathly Hallows” appeared. Since I was, and remain to this day, a serious Harry Potter fan, I was instantly intrigued. The final installation of the Harry Potter series was due to hit stores in just a couple of weeks, and suspense of its release was starting to build.

I clicked the video and listened as watched as the words “Two brothers, one video blog, 365 days of textless communication—Brotherhood 2.0” came on the screen. A nerdy-looking twenty-something then appeared and immediately said into the camera “Good morning, John, it’s Wednesday July 18th. I’m gonna have to wait until Friday to do the green hair thing, because today’s Wednesday—it’s my Wednesday—so I must do a song.” He then proceeded to sing a rather clever song about the Harry Potter community’s eagerness to read The Deathly Hallows. I was interested to find out more about Brotherhood 2.0, so I clicked on the link at the top of the page that said, “vlogbrothers.” It took me to their channel where I found seven months’ worth of videos. That marked the beginning of my fascination with the vlogbrothers.

Brotherhood 2.0 was a video project created by Hank and John Green in which the brothers were prohibited from textually communicating with each other for a full calendar year (excluding holidays and weekends). Over the year-long endeavor, the Green brothers developed a large following that they endearingly refer to as “Nerdfighters.” According to the Green brothers, anyone who watches their videos and wants to be a part of the vlogbrothers community is a Nerdfighter. The Nerdfighter community (referred to as Nerdfighteria) has developed into its own virtual subculture, complete with its own vocabulary, art, and organizations.

One particularly important Nerdfighter organization came into being through the Brotherhood 2.0 project. In March of 2007, John Green created the predecessor for the present day Foundation to Decrease World Suck. The rules of the Brotherhood 2.0 project required that (1) each video had to be under four minutes, and (2) there could be no written communication via text in or outside the context of their videos. If they broke either of these rules, they were punished. Punishments were issued by the opposite brother, and, as evident from the title, they were often unenjoyable for the accused. For example, John Green was once issued the punishment of eating five sheets of toilet paper while discussing the political situation in Nepal. But it was Hank’s punishment for textually communicating at the end of one of his videos that earned him the punishment of purchasing one hundred peeps and eating as many as he could within a six minute period. We was then challenged to give the remaining peeps to the people of Missoula (Hank’s town). For each peep he did not eat, he had to donate a dollar which would be placed in a bank account created by John Green called the Brotherhood 2.0 Fund for Decreasing Suck Levels Worldwide.

By the end of the Brotherhood 2.0 project, the Nerdfighter community surrounding the vlogbrothers’ channel was so vibrant the brothers decided to continue making videos. The phenomenon of their success is mind-boggling. Hank and John Green are two nerdy guys making Youtube videos people seem to love. What is the secret to the success of the Green brothers and Nerdfighteria?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Nerdfighter Salute

John and Hank Green

The Nerdfighter Salute, also referred to as the Nerdfighter Gang Sign. This is how Nerdfighters identify each other outside the virtual realm.

This salute tells us a lot about Nerdfighter culture. As we can see from the position of the hands, Nerdfighters draw much of their cultural inspiration from traditional nerd stereotypes (in this instance, Trekkies). However, they seem to adapt these nerd stereotypes to fit their own cultural needs. The "cross trekkie," as I shall refer to it, differentiates itself from its Trekkie forefather through its complexity. Rather than merely raising one hand in Trekkie form, Nerdfighters raise both hands and cross them in front of their chests. This simple adaptation sends a very different signal from the one utilized by Star Trek fans. It seems to say "Hey, I'm a nerd, and I'm proud. Don't mess with me." In short, it looks hardcore. This implies that Nerdfighteria culture, while nerdy by principle, is also a space where nerds can be proud. In Nerdfighteria, it's cool to be nerdy. In this respect, the Nerdfighter Salute also acts as a symbol of support and receptiveness.

No wonder I liked using the Nerdfighter Salute in high school.

Throw 'em up.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Playing the Game: Academic Discourse

We've been talking a lot about primary and secondary discourses this semester—how they are obtained and how they affect one another. And one of the secondary discourses many college students like myself are required to adopt is Academia. This discourse comes primarily to very few people; for the rest of us, becoming fluent in the academic discourse can prove difficult. For those of us who struggle to play the academic discourse game, I've come up with a list of things that may help you on your way to fluency. Keep in mind that I am by no means an expert. These are just some things I've noticed during my two and a half years of higher education.

1. If you want to be an academic, you must write clearly. Nothing screams "rookie scholar" more than a poorly constructed sentence. If you have a sizable vocabulary, great. Just make sure you're not sacrificing clarity for words that "make you sound smart."

2. Read. Academics read stuff. That's how they learn. So read.

3. Ask questions. If you don't ask, you'll never know, and academics like to know.

4. Engage the things you learn; talk about them, write about them. Use your knowledge. Test it. There's no better way to reinforce what you know.

I just realized that my list is only four points long. How sad. I guess I have much more to learn about being a fluent academic. But I hope these tips will at least help you to play the game.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Virtual Subcultures

The internet facilitates thousands of subcultures, from Facebook to the blogosphere to online gaming communities. But some of the most well-known virtual subcultures in existence are housed by YouTube, a video sharing website that gets over two billion hits per day. This seven year old site has given people the power to share and connect in new and innovative ways, and the communities that have developed through it are starting to make an impact.

One of the most prominent virtual communities on Youtube today goes by the name of Nerdfighteria. What started as a one-year video challenge by brothers John and Hank Green (or vlogbrothers) has exploded into an international effort. After gaining a considerable audience and coining the phrase "Nerdfighter" to describe those members of Youtube who follow the brothers' channel, John and Hank decided to take their influence to the next level. The brothers formed what they call "The Foundation to Decrease WorldSuck," a non-profit organization targeted toward decreasing suck levels worldwide. For example, their most recent project has been raising money for Kiva Microfunds, an organization which connects people through lending in order to alleviate poverty. Aside from the direct efforts of the Green brothers, Nerdfighteria claims more than 75 other projects.

The vlogbrothers have created an entire subculture, complete with its own slang, values, traditions, and goals. And it all started with a YouTube video.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Capital "D" Discourse

In his essay, "Literacy, Discourse, and Linguistics: Introduction and What is Literacy?" James Paul Gee writes about Discourses—not little "d" discourses, as in connected stretches of language that make sense, but capital "D" Discourses. According to Gee, capital "D" Discourses are defined as "ways of being in the world; they are forms of life which integrate words, acts, values, beliefs, attitudes, and social identities as well as gestures, glances, body positions, and clothes." He goes onto describe them as "a sort of ‘identity kit’ which comes complete with the appropriate costume and instructions on how to act, talk, and often write, so as to take on a particular role that others will recognize." So Discourses, then, act as identities. They are combinations of speech, actions, existences, values, and beliefs, which vary among social settings.

Capital "D" Discourses can be divided into two groups: primary Discourses and secondary Discourses. Primary Discourses are the ones we develop at home, before we are exposed to differing social settings. These are the Discourses that are given to us. Secondary Discourses are those which develop away from home, for example, the identities we form for school or church or work. We are able to choose these Discourses.

People enter into secondary Discourses in order to assimilate with others' primary Discourses. But secondary Discourses are often influenced by primary discourses, an idea which has the potential to either help or hinder a person in her attempt to assimilate. For example, a girl whose primary Discourse is heavily influenced by athleticism may have trouble being fluent in a secondary Discourse like pageantry. And if she struggles to be fluent in this secondary Discourse, she may be viewed as a "pretender" and not "one of" those who claim pageantry as a primary Discourse.

Here is a video clip which provides an example of failed fluency in a secondary Discourse:



Disney's Mulan is a great example of how (1) secondary Discourses can be affected by primary discourses, (2) failure to be fluent in secondary Discourses can result in alienation, and (3) people can be forced into adopting secondary Discourses.

(1) In the film, Mulan is presented as an atypical daughter in the Chinese tradition. She is bold, clumsy, and boyish. Her primary Discourse hinders her fluency in the secondary Discourse of becoming the "perfect bride."

(2) In the scene following the one above, we see that Mulan fails to impress the matchmaker, and as a result she is alienated by the rest of the female community.

(3) This clip shows that secondary Discourses may not be chosen, but can be forced upon people. Mulan obviously does not desire this path for her life, but she takes it in the hopes of bringing honor to her family.

Those of us who have seen Mulan in its entirety know that she later becomes fluent in another secondary Discourse—the military. In this case, Mulan's primary Discourse assists her in her quest to become fluent in the ways of the Chinese army, and she is eventually accepted (after an initial struggle) by the other warriors. This idea is particularly interesting to me, because it implies that those who are brought up in certain primary Discourses may be limited in the types of secondary Discourses they are able to successfully adopt later in life. For example, a man who grows up in the back woods of Alabama may find it difficult to become fluent in a corporate business Discourse. This idea has the potential to create a sort of "rich get richer, poor get poorer" effect (loosely speaking). If primary discourses lay the foundation for secondary Discourses, does this mean that people with lower-status primary Discourses cannot succeed in high-status secondary Discourses?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Literacy and Culture

When most people think "literacy," they think "being able to read and write." This answer isn't wrong; it's merely incomplete. Literacy is more than knowing how to read, the sounds each character of the alphabet makes when placed in a particular sequence. It is not merely being able string words together. Literacy is so much more. It is comprehension, understanding, application, ability. Take reading a book for example. The process of reading means absolutely nothing if there is no learning involved. Literacy is achieved only when we are absorbing, thinking, analyzing. Likewise, when we craft sentences we apply our knowledge of language and grammar to construct something coherent and meaningful.

But obviously literacy can refer to much more than just reading and writing. In today's culture, where technology plays a huge role, being technology literate is extremely important. This brings me to the idea that literacy is the driving force of culture. For centuries, before people knew how to read and write, culture was dependent upon those who were literate in their craft, whether it be metal work, farming, selling, etc. Based on the idea that literacy drives culture, then, how can "culture" be defined? I believe that culture is the way we gain and apply knowledge. Our culture is how we react to our environment—and the people in it—by applying what we know. Using this definition, it would seem as though literacy and culture are inseparable. Culture depends heavily on the literacy of its people, because literacy is what most influences our actions, beliefs, and general ways of life.