"We're tryna improve our life everyday": Digital literacy in policy and practice

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In this study, drawing on a Foucauldian framework, I explore how through processes of governmentality, neoliberal discourse is taken up in both policy (governance) and adult learner subjectivity (self-governance) pertaining to digital skills. To do this, I conducted critical discourse analysis (CDA) of Alberta’s Living Literacy policy framework, then used ethnographic methods to observe a basic digital literacy classroom and conduct interviews with adult learners. My findings indicate that literacy is a useful area for investigating how neoliberalism and entrepreneurial subjectivity are (re)produced in policy and social practice. This is done through individualizing and responsibilizing discourse at both policy and individual levels. However, I also identify how, despite the strong neoliberal tendencies of the policy, adult learners understand literacy as extending beyond the economic. For them, literacy is also a practice of community, representation, and health. Using these findings, I argue that literacy is a practice for improving one’s life – though not solely through economic means, despite the policy’s attempt to quantify and invest in literacy as an economic project toward innovation.
literacy, digital literacy, policy, policy analysis, Michel Foucault, critical discourse analysis, ethnography, social practice, neoliberalism
Henderson, M. J. (2019). “We’re tryna improve our life everyday”: Digital literacy in policy and practice (Master's thesis, University of Calgary, Calgary, Canada). Retrieved from https://prism.ucalgary.ca.