John Potter

UCL Knowledge Lab, UK

Dynamic Literacies / Dynamic Methodologies

This talk will explore how theoretical innovation is supported by methodological innovation and the ways which they are in a symbiotic relation to one another.

In recent years, multimodal theory has challenged researchers to account in their work for the many ways in which meaning is made, with a focus on visual (and other) ways of working appropriate to the dominant modes of communication in a digital age.  The mediatic turn itself arises from an attempt to re-conceptualise and re-describe literacy more widely as a set of dynamic practices and assemblages which, in turn, has its roots and echoes in new literacy studies, post-humanism, actor- network theory and more. In the context of learning, formally and informally, this suggests an imperative for a cultural integration of texts and practices hitherto considered to be superficial, ephemeral and disconnected from the codes and conventions of real literacy. Multimodal research methods help us to generate innovative theory because they allow us to pay attention to, and describe, embedded and changing forms of literacy practices.

Practical examples of support for a theory of dynamic literacies will be discussed showing how they can be derived from dynamic and multimodal research methods in a number of projects, including an ongoing playground games research project, Playing the Archive. Seminar participants are invited to bring their own work and ideas to the discussion of these emergent and innovative research methods.


John Potter is Reader in Media in Education at the University College London Institute of Education, based in the UCL Knowledge Lab. His research and publications are in the fields of: media education, new literacies, creative activity and learner agency; theories of curation and agency in social media; the changing nature of teaching and learning in response to the pervasive use in wider culture of media technologies in formal and informal settings. He has worked in literacy and media in education throughout his working life, as: a primary school teacher in East London; a local authority education advisor; a teacher educator and, most recently, as an academic and researcher, teaching on MA programmes and supervising doctoral students. In his work, he argues for a wider definition of literacy which encompasses the culture, interests and agency of learners, and proposes pedagogies which value the cultural capital which all social actors in formal and informal settings bring with them. He is the author of a number of books and papers in the field, including Digital Media, Culture and Education: Theorising third-space literacies with Prof Julian McDougall (published by Palgrave/Springer in 2017), which has just been shortlisted for the UKLA Academic Book of the Year award, 2018.