Literacy as Worldmaking

Having just returned from another amazingly generative Educon conference (and if you have not been, you should definitely add it to your calendar for next year), I am chagrined as I look back at how neglected my blog has been. Nevertheless, inspired by the discussion about modeling in a session on connected educators with Kira Baker-Doyle (@KJBD), I figured I should be blogging regularly while asking the students in the Digital Literacies classes I’m teaching to blog.


I thought that I’d spend some of the time in these next few blog posts reflecting on some of the recent articles and chapters I’ve written, especially exploring ideas that had to be cut out or that got short shrift with word limits. (And frankly, these things just take so long to emerge!) The first one I’ll start with is from an upcoming chapter called ‘Literacy as Worldmaking’, and I have to say that the more I sit with the idea, the more it grows on me.

DSC_0061 copyWhy worldmaking? Worldmaking is not a new theory, but it is one that has new resonance for our participatory, media-infused times. Certainly the ways we engage in worldmaking when we participate in virtual worlds or games seems evident, but I argue that literacy is always a kind of worldmaking, or–as Goodman (1978) describes it–a way of creating new orders of reality through remaking and remixing. There is no one objective world we are working to understand; we do not make meaning outside of our frames of reference. I love the example Holland and colleagues (1998) offer of AA as figured world, as personal narratives become emblems and poker chips become symbols of sobriety. We make meaning of our worlds through our historically and socially situated meaning making practices; though our symbolizing practices we shape our worlds and imagine new possibilities.

One of the things that makes this feel like a generative theory for thinking about literacy is the way worldmaking emphasizes both the global (the world part) and the productive (the making part) dimensions of literacy. The global focus puts difference at the center of the meaning making enterprise, highlighting how we can live together across our diversities: meaning making, as always historically and socially situated and ideological, requires us to consider ourselves in relation to the world more broadly. The making focus highlights the productive, dynamic, and active dimensions of meaning making, moving us away from a focus on products or texts to think more about improvisation, emergence, and participation as key features.


Simply put, literacy always involves the interpretive remaking of worlds, “a process of building multiple, shared interpretive realms out of an array of cultural resources in service of communicating across differences” (p. 14). So, how can we remake our shared worlds to incorporate new voices, stories, and perspectives? If testing, reform, and standards are functioning now as the key interpretive frames for the educational world, how can we collaboratively conceive of a new world–and what worlds can we remix and what artifacts can we use as ‘pivots’ to open up these new possibilities? Imagination, of course, is central to this work. Just some thoughts for a cold, cold Sunday evening.

These ideas are more fully developed in the following article, which obviously goes into a lot more detail (please let me know if you’d like a copy):  

Stornaiuolo, A. (in press). Literacy as worldmaking: Cosmopolitanism, creativity, and multimodality. In K. Pahl & J. Rowsell (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Literacy Studies. Routledge.


Goodman, N. (1978). Ways of worldmaking. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing.

Holland, D., Lachiotte Jr., W., Skinner, D., & Cain, C. (1998). Identity and agency in cultural worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s