Between Learning and Opportunity: A Study of African American Coders' Networks of Support

Antonio Byrd, University of Missouri-Kansas City
<span title="2019-12-09">2019</span> <i title="Literacy in Composition Studies"> <a target="_blank" rel="noopener" href="" style="color: black;">Literacy in Composition Studies</a> </i> &nbsp;
KEYWORDS ecological writing studies; critical race theory; coding literacy; ego network analysis; racially marginalized digital literacies D espite the ubiquity of digital technologies in the United States, racially marginalized adults are still less likely to develop high quality digital literacy skills for meaningful problem-solving practices (Reder 16). Racial disparities between Whites and African Americans in health, education, income, and mass incarceration (Geronimus et al. 826, 833;
more &raquo; ... encing Project; M. Jones 150-51; Martin, Fasching-Varner, and Pulley) can exacerbate the unequal use of these technologies and prevent racially marginalized people from accessing the multiple resources that may ensure that their learning digital literacies afford "full participation" in life opportunities" (Warschauer and Tate 69). The expected benefits of digital literacy echo the historical ideological belief that reading and writing are necessary to accrue progress both for civilization and individuals, what Harvey Graff calls the literacy myth (Graff, The Literacy Myth; Graff and Duffy 41). The literacy myth interprets literacy as a useful skill free of the messiness of political and cultural ideology. This myth persists and extends into digital technology: the digital divide is a dichotomy between those who have access to the Internet and those who do not. The digital version of the literacy myth suggests that if given physical access to digital technology, racially marginalized people can overcome inequality and have full participation in life. However, scholars in writing studies have found literacy a socially constructed practice whose consequences vary among people as a result of cultural and political interests (Street 2; Graff, "The Literacy Myth at Thirty"). Understanding literacy as a social practice, a range of scholars in composition and rhetoric have called for a more nuanced discussion on digital divide rhetoric and education policy (Banks 41; Selfe; Moran 206). Annette Powell, for example, argues that we look deeper than mere physical access to digital technology and "recognize [the] social, political, and economic factors implicated in the literacies individuals bring to technology and the circumstances under which these literacies are deployed" (17). How racially marginalized people access and use digital technologies is an on-going process deeply affected by their social conditions (Powell 17). Virginia Eubanks notes that we consider that digital technology "an assembly of practices for organizing the world that encode some norms, values, and ways of life at the expense of others"
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