Iconclasm in the Digital Age

Gee is such an absorbing read and lots of wonderfully quotable nuggets like:

But all learning is … learning to play ‘the game’. For example, literary criticism and field biology are different ‘games’ played by different rules. (They are different sorts of activities requiring different values, tools, and ways of acting and thinking; they are different domains with different goals and different ‘win states’) p. 7

I have only just finished chapter 2, but I was interested in his notion of “semiotic domains” which he describes as “an area or set of activities where people think, act and value in certain ways” (p. 19). These “semiotic domains” employ a range of modalities (or multimodalities in this case) which would encompass the following:

  • oral or written language
  • images
  • equations
  • symbols
  • sounds
  • gestures
  • graphs
  • artifacts, etc

These modalities are embued with specific meanings which are communicated in very distinctive ways – in some respects I see these as being very similar to the idea of transliteracy which Sue Thomas (of PART) defines as:

 … the ability to read, write and interact across a range of platforms, tools and media from signing and orality through handwriting, print, TV, radio and film, to digital social networks.

QR DatamatrixTransliteracy, then, becomes an umbrella term to include the likes of literacy, digital literacy, media literacy, information literacy, visual literacy and computer literacy (to name but a few). The idea of images and symbols that have become to represent real-world objects is as old as neolithic man and used by the ancient Egyptians in the form of hieroglyphics (we can include other cultures that made use of glyphics and pictograms here). It is interesting to see how symbols and imagery has come full circle with the power of the pixel and the ascension of nu-hieroglyphics like semacode?and data matrix code which contain information tucked away within those barcode-like symbols and can now be captured and translated by mobile phone technology. What would the cognitive archaeologists make of these symbols in 2000 years time I wonder?


Gee, J.P. (2007). What Video Games Have To Teach Us About Learning And Literacy (Revised and Updated Edition). New York, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.