Based on the ethnographic and discourse analytic methods, , Lam (2000) conducts a case study of a Chinese immigrant teenager’s written correspondence with a group of peers from different nations on the Internet and investigates how online interaction helps that teenager develop identity in the use of English.
Firstly, the author provides some relevant theoretical concepts: identity, voice, design and self. She also points out that the current study focuses on how new literacy is bound up with some particular social contexts. She viewed literacy learning as a process by which learners can be socialized with in specific communities and enact a particular social role. In other words, the term ‘Identity’ is emphasized in the process of promoting literacy learning.
In this case study, the author utilized methods including participant observation, in-depth interviews and textual documentation to gather the data on students’ computer experiences and activities. The target subject in this case study is a boy named Almon, who emigrated from Hong Kong to the US with his family when he was 12. After he arrived at the US, his main concern was his poor English. His found that his difficulty with English negatively influence his feeling of belonging to the US community. Later, in 1997, Almon started to get interested in Internet. He learnt to make personal home pages and conduct online chat and found it was easier for him to express himself online. He constructed a personal website talking about his idol –a young Japanese popular singer and introduced himself as Mr. Children. In this website. he interacted with people from different nations who shared the same interests with him through multiple channels of communication (e.g. ICQ, email…etc.) Through communicating with his pen pals, he made great progress on his English skills, especially writing skills. However, the English that Almon developed online was the global English rather than academic English taught in English classes. online interation helps him develop a sense of belonging and connectedness with a global English community. As stated before, in this study, ‘Identity’ was the central issue the author concerned. In the discussion session of the case study, the author states that Almon developed a textual identitied that are related but different from his biographical identities online. In other words, what Almon reacted online was different with the real him in the real world.
In the conclusion, the author raises a critical issue for language and cultural identity in an age of globalization and the populatization of Internet-based communication. I totally understand that why the author states that one may have different identities on the Internet and in the real world. I believe most of teenagers have some secrets. They prefer to share them with strangers online (such as pen pals) rather than thier friends and families. They may express thier feelings or thoughts differently online. That’s a natual phenomenon. Therefore, when the language teacher decide to assign some online project to students, they should be aware of the identity issue. I think besides helping students develop language, another advantage of new literacy practice is to let teacher get to know their students better because they have a chance to understand different sides of one person through thier online identities.
Also this case study reminds me of my friend’s experience of learning English. Like Almon, She is a big fan of Benedict Cumberbatch. Everyday she spends lots of time gathering every piece of his news (including his interviews, reports in magazines, gossips, dramas….) She also writes lots of film summarys about that actors. Since most of news are English, she also needs to translate it into Chinese and put the translations online to share them with other fans. She told me that being a English actor’s fan really helps her improve English. Since you are particularly interested in a English guy, you will take the initiative to get to know him more through reading and writing. Now she has moved to Australia. I believe that her cultural identity is useful for her to adapt herself to a new environment easily.BTW, her personal webpages on douban and weibo are very famous among the Chinese fans of Benedict. You may have a look 🙂 http://www.douban.com/people/rainleo410818/ http://weibo.com/rainleo410818
I think the teacher should be aware of the power of pop culture and cultural identity to language learning and understand that nowadays it’s not enough to only practise standard language with students in traditional classrooms, the teacher should creative opportunities to encourage students to expand thier target languages through getting in touch with the target language communities. The learning activities about pop culture may not necessarily have to be very formal.The teacher may introduce some western pop culture to thier students and let students share their interests to a particular culture with each other. The most important thing is to let students find thier culture identity and cultivate their own interests in expanding the target language as they are learning it.