Can we read?: Literacies in the Era of Fake News

deadline for submissions: 
March 27, 2017
full name / name of organization: 
Melissa Schindler/ SUNY Buffalo State College

Call for Participants

Modern Language Association Convention (Jan 4-7, New York City)

“Can we read?”: Literacies in the Era of Fake News


Note: This call is for participation in a Working Group session, which meets for two or three days and includes 8-12 participants. For more information about this session format, please visit the MLA convention website:


If we take the 2016 U.S. election as a byproduct of changes to our reading, writing, viewing and listening practices, then the great “shock” of 2016 begs the question: can we read? What does it mean for us to collectively consume more media than ever before, even as our ability to distinguish between fact and falsification is compromised by those very consumption practices? More importantly, what does it mean to help students become better readers and thinkers in a historical moment in which they’re inundated with texts? We hold a shared assumption about reading: the more we do it, the better we get at it. Indeed, we often take that a step further, claiming that the more one reads, the better one writes. Has social media broken the seemingly causative relation between these communicative skills? Or were they never as clearly linked as we had originally imagined?


This working group will bring together scholars from across the disciplines to dialogue about literacy in its very broadest senses. For the purposes of the group, we will take literacy to mean any interpretive practice, including those employed in the consumption of written, visual, sonic, performative and other media. We will also consider abstract literacies, such as the ability to “read” culture, race, gender, sexuality, class and other social constructs. Similarly, we will take writing to mean any expressive gesture that is productive in that it produces a unit of expression that can be “read.” Writing, in this view, would encompass the aforementioned media forms as well as collective and abstract cultural expressions.


Each participant will be expected to prepare a small discussion unit and will be allotted five minutes to present the topic. Presentations might take various forms, ranging from a PowerPoint to a Pechakucha to a performance to a short paper. Topics should provide a foundation for discussion and as such, might consist of a visual performance, the presentation of a research problem or gap, the presentation of research results, the discussion of pedagogical approaches or of a teaching or learning anecdote (and more). Participants will be expected to prepare questions to facilitate discussion of individual topics.


We will strive for interdisciplinarity, and participants from all backgrounds and perspectives are invited to submit proposals. Topic ideas include, but are certainly not limited to:


--Historical perspectives on: reading practices, libraries, bookstores and archives, pedagogy and educator training, journalism, market trends, social movements, state and federal education legislation, etc.;


--Research on cognition as it pertains to literacy, language acquisition, technology use, etc.;


--Artistic and performative reflections on aspects of literacy;


--Ethnographic studies of communities and social trends as they relate to literacy, broadly defined (e.g. book or film clubs, reading classrooms, community-specific perceptions of race or gender, etc.);


--Research in Applied Linguistics on the relationship between first or second language use/change and literacies;


--Analysis of literature, film, television, visual or sonic arts that offers insight into the material/social conditions of works;


--Research in Composition and Rhetoric


--Investigations of how the development of new technology impacts our collective and individual literacies (e.g. e-readers, word-processing programs, social media platforms, learning management systems, mobile computing, internet accessibility, etc.);


--Analysis of the ethics and practices of journalists, news outlets, bloggers, organizations, etc.;


--Discussions of literacies as they impact or are impacted by employment and job training;


To apply, please submit a proposal (maximum 250 words) that includes a description of the proposed discussion topic and at least five potential discussion questions for the group. Due March 27. Send proposals to:


Official CFP found here: