My Computer-Literate Identity – A Metaliteracy Narrative

My name is Matthew Sansbury. I am a DALN Research Fellow and PhD Student in Composition and Rhetoric at Georgia State working at the intersections of multimodal composition and literacy studies. I first encountered the idea of computer literacy at a conference: South Atlantic Modern Language Association (SAMLA) in 2013. The Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (DALN) was an honored guest at that particular conference, which featured topics in Composition and Rhetoric as well as Computers and Composition. After giving my own literacy narrative to Cynthia L. Selfe, I found a new excitement as I prepared to volunteer as an interviewer and archivist in the coming days.

DALN-SAMLA 1Cynthia L. Selfe, Valerie Robin, and Matthew Sansbury

The first day at the DALN table felt magical in every way. It was a great honor to work with luminaries in Computers and Composition as well as hear literacy stories firsthand that were so close to their owners’ hearts: issues of class, race, orientation, technology, religion, oppression, and illiteracy were present in many of the narratives that I recorded, listened to, or uploaded. Of all the experiences at the DALN table that day, one remains constantly on my mind as I go about my daily life of professionalizing, teaching, writing, editing, and researching: Adadevoh Anthonia’s “The Teacher as Learner.”

In “The Teacher as Learner,” C. Selfe interviews Adadevoh Anthonia regarding computer literacy. Anthonia recalls her situation: “as I progressed in my profession, I found out that definitely need to know how to use the computer, and everyone I asked was a bit impatient.” Her husband is a computer scientist, but she did not ask him for help because that tutorial would have been too difficult. Her two daughters would only take away the keyboard and complete the task for mom themselves; instead, she asks her nine-year-old son for help: “I’ve seen you sitting at the computer with such confidence. Can you help mama? And he was so patient!” After a few weeks, Anthonia’s “confidence grew. Finally, in about three weeks, we went on to how to use email. . . . That’s how my journey with computer usage started.” As the interviewer, C. Selfe responds, “isn’t that interesting? He taught the teacher.” This concept of youth teaching previous generations how to use emergent technologies comes up again and again in computer literacy narratives (e.g. Cheryl E. Ball and Dickie Selfe’s “How We Became Technorhetoricians”).

DALN-SAMLA 2Cynthia L. Selfe and Adadevoh Anthonia

As a bystander and archival researcher, I am inspired by Anthonia’s story as well as the questions C. Selfe asks to move along the conversation and narrative. In my own memory, this moment fuses with Anthonia’s narrative, helping me understand computer literacy as an area worthy of academic inquiry. In her own narrative “Access and Literacy,” C. Selfe indicates almost immediately that she is a short person who is always reaching for what is out of her reach. She often uses broom handles to knock down items from high places: “for me, access has been a fairly minor inconvenience, but these incidents do remind me of what it means when we make our learning inaccessible for students.” C. Selfe concludes with a call to action: “we need to think about access in our classrooms, and we need to think about different ways to make learning accessible to students.” Through these combined experiences and literacy narratives, I am able to extrapolate meaning as I continue understanding my own computer-literate identity as a scholar and pedagogue.