Literacy from the Perspective of Social Theory


The ability to perceive information and communicate with others using different means is undoubtedly among the essential skills a human being has to possess. While reading and writing are crucial, the standard strategies that relate to literacy fail to consider the implications of the information technology age and its impact on the matter. Literacy definitions have common mistakes, which require further exploration to understand the reasoning behind them based on the works of scholars that consider a broader social context.

We will write a
custom essay
specifically for you

for only $16.05 $11/page
308 certified writers online
Learn More

Defining Literacy

The common misconceptions about literacy are connected to the perception of this notion as an ability to read, write, and communicate using traditional means such as pen and paper. In general, the primary concern is the essential ability of a person to comprehend information, although no specifics in regards to a source are usually cited. The main reason that explains the inadequacy of this approach is the lack of accounting for the innovation and changes that altered the way information is created and distributed. Hawisher et al. argue that traditional literacy definitions lack the adjustments necessary in the modern world of information technology because “today if students cannot write to the screen… they may be incapable of functioning effectively as literate citizens” (642). While it is evident that an illiterate person has difficulties with making sense of instructions, labels, signs, or more complex things such as articles or books, it is necessary to acknowledge the need for computer skills.

Additionally, approaching literacy as a social practice is necessary because of its connection to the interactions between people. Literacy practices and literacy events are connected to the social theory of literacy. Barton and Hamilton argue that the first notion is a “cultural way of utilizing language,” and the second is connected to “activities where literacy has a role” (7). Therefore, viewing this concept as merely a skill eliminates the essential cultural and interpersonal components of literacy. It is vital to consider literacy in the context of society and interactions between people to be able to understand its meaning entirely. It is because it can be argued that this capability only matters in a social context. Barton’s analysis of the general literacy concepts scrutinizes the notions and argues that “literacy is embedded in other human activity” (qtd. in Carter et al. 296). Based on the examined evidence, it can be argued that the new definitions of literacy, reading, and writing should incorporate the technological literacy and social context of this element.

The glossary will provide an extensive definition of the key terms that relate to literacy, and this section will address them in an attempt to redefine literacy. Literacy is usually referred to as a combination of skills that allow an individual to read and write, but it should also incorporate the ability to type and use computers for locating information. Text is any information presented in a written form on any source. Reading and writing are usually viewed as an ability of an individual to comprehend the characters in a text and use them to convey thoughts on a paper.


Overall, this essay redefined the notion of literacy based on the works of Hawisher et al. and Barton and Hamilton. The widely applied approach to literacy accounts for the necessary abilities of an individual to read the text and write it using a pen and paper. However, this perspective does not consider the necessity of being able to use a computer that arises in a contemporary world. Additionally, it lacks the understanding of this concept from the perspective of social theory.

Works Cited

Barton, David, and Mary Hamilton. “Literacy Practices: A Social Theory of Literacy: Practices and Events.” Situated Literacies: Reading and Writing in Context, edited by David Barton et al., Routledge, 2000, pp. 7-14.

Carter, Shannon, et al. Writing Inquiry. Fountainhead Press, 2017.

Get your
100% original paper
on any topic

done in as little as
3 hours
Learn More

Hawisher, Gail, et al. “Becoming Literate in the Information Age: Cultural Ecologies and the Literacies of Technology.” College Composition and Communication, vol. 55, no. 4, 2004, pp. 642–692.

Print Сite this

Cite this paper

Select style


StudyCorgi. (2021, September 11). Literacy from the Perspective of Social Theory. Retrieved from

Work Cited

"Literacy from the Perspective of Social Theory." StudyCorgi, 11 Sept. 2021,

1. StudyCorgi. "Literacy from the Perspective of Social Theory." September 11, 2021.


StudyCorgi. "Literacy from the Perspective of Social Theory." September 11, 2021.


StudyCorgi. 2021. "Literacy from the Perspective of Social Theory." September 11, 2021.


StudyCorgi. (2021) 'Literacy from the Perspective of Social Theory'. 11 September.

This paper was written and submitted to our database by a student to assist your with your own studies. You are free to use it to write your own assignment, however you must reference it properly.

If you are the original creator of this paper and no longer wish to have it published on StudyCorgi, request the removal.