It was a fascinating conversation in class the other night, with a lot of good ideas circulating. What has continued to rattle around in my head is the question of digital media and agency. Cope and Kalantzis, in “New Media, New Learning” argue that one of the genuinely different aspects of digital media is the way in increases individual agency when it comes to creating, responding to, and publishing texts.  I don’t think anyone would argue that they are right that individuals have the opportunity and technology available now to publish and distribute their ideas that was unthinkable twenty years ago. As someone who was trying to get my short stories published back then, and had no venue for publication aside from established magazines and journals, I think there is no disputing that part of the point Cope and Kalantzis make (I say as I type on my blog).

But the question that came up in class concerned the effect of those efforts to write and publish individual texts. Does “agency” mean only the ability to publish, or does it also mean that the action achieves a sense of empowerment, change, critical or political or emotional growth on the part of the writer? If agency is more than the action, but is also the effect on the individual, then have digital media really changed that much? Is writing this blog, which may not be read, that different to my sense of agency than writing the journals that I have kept for decades? Or, how much agency is allowed in a digital world that is increasingly bound by the imperatives  of global capitalism? How much agency is provided to me if I am just doing the marketing work for corporations? What kinds of composing and communication with digital media could actually have an effect on our individual – or collective – sense of agency?

More to come…

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