Language mediates our experience - critical

Language mediates
(Barton, 2009)
Language mediates our experience
• written texts can do this in a powerful way
• To mediate = to bring two things closer by
means of a medium
Language as a medium (1)
A. All experiences are mediated.
B. We construct a view of reality.
C. Language mediates our experiences.
(Language is one of the most important
mediators of experience)
D. The view of language which we can construct
internally is influenced by the language
Sign, signifier and signified
Language as a medium (2)
• The words we use to name an experience provide
a way of coding it, organizing it, and remembering
• Language mediates thought and it contains the
metaphors* we live by (Lakoff and Johnson, 1980)
• Language is a medium for communication
• Language mediates what goes inside our heads
and what goes on outside
*Conceptual metaphors as means for constructing reality is the theme of unit 7
Language as a medium (3)
• An other person making sense of, describing,
interpreting an event or an experience is
mediating that experience for us
• Storytellers, priests, advertisers, actors,
politicians, your partner, your kid, your mother,
your boss etc… all mediate our experience when
they tell us something, offering a structure, a
away of making sense of reality
• Each is offering particular possibilities for taking
meaning from an event
Mediating experience in interaction
Meaning-making process
of meaning
This is inevitable:
Written word*
• Okay, let’s continue approaching the written
word in this light:
• What is written for e.g. in novels, textbooks
and newspapers also mediate our experience
in a powerful way
• This in combination with other media such as
film and TV invoke other senses with sound,
graphics and colors, the mediation becomes
much greater!
*We will focus on the mediation of experience of other media, such as film and visual in
unit 9
“ Words are flying out like
endless rain into a paper cup
They slither while they pass
They slip away across the universe
Pools of sorrow waves of joy
are drifting thorough my open mind
Possessing and caressing me”
Extracted from the song “Across the Universe” by The Beatles
I started early...took my dog
• By Emily Dickinson
Animated poem read by
Blair Brown
• http://www.poetryfoun
Be constantly aware of mediation:
• It is important not to lose sight of the
active nature of mediation!
• It is not so much language which mediates as
people using language who mediate
• E.g. in schools textbooks are mediators of
experience, but teacher mediate the textbooks
• complex layers of mediation and (multiple)
To summarize: Language mediates
1. All our experience is mediated, nothing is direct,
and language is a central form of mediation
2. People can mediate our experience by the way
they structure reality for us in social interactions
– The ideas they stand for, their intentions, their own
experiences and how they ‘see’ the world influence
how they mediate (compose) this reality they want to
3. Texts, whether they are books, films or
advertisement mediate our experience
Taking a critical stance:
Critical Literacy
Learning to read the world while
learning to read the word
Although there are several approaches to
critical literacy, each underpinned by different
theoretical perspectives , they all have in
common that:
CL involves an active, challenging
approach to reading and textual
practices. CL involves the analysis and
critique of the relationship among
texts, language, power, social groups
and social practices
What is CL?
• CL shows us ways of looking at written, visual,
spoken, multimedia and performance texts to
question and challenge the attitudes, values and
beliefs that lie beneath the surface
• Literacy is as much about ideologies, identities,
and values as it is about codes and skills. CL
provides us with ways of thinking that uncover
social inequalities and injustices. It enables us to
address disadvantage and become agents of
social change (Gregory and Cahill, 2009)
CL attempts to develop 3 kinds of
understanding (Morgan, 1996)
1. The way texts (and visuals etc. approach broad) and
their discourses work to represent reality and define
what is necessary for us;
2. A sympathetic understanding of the people who are
affected (shaped) by those discourses; (voice,
voiceless, representation)
3. Ways we can engage with those texts and their
4. Questioning texts, reflecting, taking a stance from the
position of the passive reader to the position of the
active reader Negotiation of meaning,
interpretation and identities!
CL includes (1):
• Examining meaning within texts
• Considering the purpose for the text and the composer’s
• Texts are not neutral, they represent particular views,
silence other points of views and influence people’s ideas
• Questioning and challenging the ways texts have been
• Analyzing the power of language in contemporary society
• Emphasizing multiple readings of texts (because people
interpret texts in the light of their own believes and values,
texts will have different meanings to different people)
CL includes (2)
• Having ‘you’ take a stance on issues
• Providing ‘you’ with opportunities to consider
and clarify your own attitudes and values:
{ being aware of different perspectives 
reflection negotiation of identities: who am
I, do I agree? (metaphor of room)}
• Providing ‘you’ with opportunities to take
social action (e.x. writing a letter of complaint)
Why is CL important?
• Our lifestyles are changing constantly, hi-tech,
globalized world (boundaries of space and
time are dissolving)
• Changing societal structures
• Cultural diversity
• Marketing of ideas
• Lifelong learning
Rejecting the tension (1)
(Gregory & Cahill, 2009)
• The authors question the role schools (formal
education in terms of curriculum and methods) play
on the development of students as active citizens.
Schools have the potential to be places where
students can come to understand how and why
knowledge and power are constructed
• Critical perspective: Inspired by Paulo Freire (19211997: Brazilian educational reformer) (you can read
more about Freire on the wiki)
• In Freirian terms CL involves “ reading the world” so
that we can come to understand how we encode
power structures and the roles we play in these
processes (Freire & Mancedo, 1987)
Paulo Freire (1921-1997)
“ Education either functions
as an instrument which is
used to facilitate integration
of the younger generation
into the logic of the present
system and bring about
conformity or it becomes the
practice of freedom, the
means by which men and
women deal critically and
creatively with reality and
discover how to participate in
the transformation of their
Rejecting the tension (2)
(Gregory & Cahill, 2009)
• Emancipatory literacy: the notion that literate
individuals are able to function independently and
flexible in society (survive)
• Citizenship in a democracy (Dewey’s view of
democracy 1916)
• “Children become literate at school” : “literacy is and
must always be ideologically situated* (…) qualified by
the context of assumptions, beliefs, expectations, and
related conceptual material that accompanies its use
by particular groups of people in particular sociohistorical circumstances”
*We will address the theme of ideologies in unit 6
Adopting a critical stance (1)
(Gregory & Cahill, 2009)
• Questioning texts  problematizing knowledge
• Do you for instance question the media you consume here
in Aruba ?
• Engaging in such a problematization creates tension. You’re
world is shaking: you are aware that reality is something
• You can choose to reject the tension and not begin a critical
questioning process schooling, passive agency.
• This can be motivated by fear: ‘fear for the unknown’ or
‘fear for reprisals (groups you belong to, want to belong to;
social identity, questioning your own identity.
• If you decide to contend with the tension, then a critical
stance is necessary(democracy) education
Adopting a critical stance (2)
(Gregory & Cahill, 2009)
• We accept the tension! Tension is ‘growing’, being
• Critical stance: you read the world, not only the
words/pictures/actions/sounds/etc. A text is seen
here as a “ vehicle through which individuals
communicate with one another using the codes
and conventions of society” with a purpose!
• Examples: songs, novels, conversations, movies,
art, photographs (all forms of communication are
considered to be texts)
Taking a critical stand
What kind of critical questions would you ask?
Work in pairs and formulate critical questions.
Examples of critical questions
Textual purpose
Textual structures and features
Construction of characters
Gaps and silence
Power and interest
Whose view: whose reality?
Interrogating the composer
Multiple meanings
• (I will post of list of critical questions on our wiki)

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