Telling different stories differently: The possibilities of multimodal
(counter)storytelling with African American adolescent boys



In this study I describe multimodal (counter)storytelling as a practice of textual construction and discursive enactment, a hybrid third space to look differently at literacies.  Currently, the learning and literacy experiences of urban African American male adolescents are usually studied within the context of schools and often under the veil of expected deficit; much of this research is quantitative and narrowly focuses on the relationships between adolescents, delinquency, and education.  This dissertation is located against and beyond these discourses, and is framed by Critical Race Theory and New Literacy Studies.  I explore youths’ stories as sources of knowledge about how literacies are situated in their lives.  Questions of whose stories are heard and silenced are woven throughout this dissertation that details the story-making experiences that five African American adolescent boys and I co-constructed over the course of a fifteen month, multi-sited ethnographic study.  These experiences occurred within the context of our multilayered story of how we came to make a place for ourselves through and for our engagements with literacies.

I build on the recent empirical work in literacy research that presents new points of inquiry into the literacies in the lives of urban youth.  In this I engaged multiple modalities to explore the hybrid terrain of the boys’ literacies.  In doing so, we co-constructed a space for contesting, (re)imagining and reclaiming the discourses that purport to hold knowledge about the literate lives of African American boys.  I engaged a range of visual and multimodal data in my analysis of our space, the nature of knowing, and the social practices of play in which literacies were situated.  Two main conclusions emerge from this study: technologies have social affordances for a creating and researching a literacy context; and adolescents’ play and subjectivities are salient in their multimodal, discursive representations.  This study contributes to the field of literacy studies by describing the possibilities for literate engagements that are constructed in a hybrid third space when youth, and particularly African American boys, are engaged in the textual practice and discursive enactment of telling different stories differently.

Chapter 1: Convergences: Making the case for different stories
Chapter 2: Digressions: Telling Stories Differently
Chapter 3: The Space of With
Chapter 4: The Nature of Knowing
Chapter 5: Making A Space with/for Play
Chapter 6: Conclusions and Implications: Stories Yet Untold

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