UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Digital identities, educational inequities : investigating social class and new literacies of migrant Filipino youth in the knowledge economy Darvin, Ronald Perfecto Raymundo


Drawing on data from an 18-month case study of migrant Filipino youth of various social class positions, this dissertation examines the socialization of L2 learners into different digital practices, and the implications of these differences in educational contexts where digital literacies are unequally valued. Through interviews of 18 focal participants from three high schools in Vancouver, teachers and parents, and observations of digitally-mediated interactions, the study investigated how the volume and composition of the learners’ economic, cultural, and social capital (Bourdieu, 1986) shaped the material conditions of these interactions, and the ways learners were positioned in online and offline spaces (Darvin & Norton, 2015). Findings demonstrated how material conditions of migration, home environments, spatial configurations and access to tools and social resources can shape diverse digital dispositions and investment in relational, informational, expressive, recreational, and operational digital practices. As learners moved across online spaces of language acquisition, power operated not only through human actors, but also through the non-human interactants of physical and digital contexts. Digital repertoires, cultures-of-use (Thorne, 2003), sociotechnical structures and algorithmic processes had power to shape the distribution of knowledge, compartmentalize identities, and segregate social networks, constructing modes of exclusion online. Uncritical interpretations of what constitutes digital literacy, perpetuated by educational policies and teacher beliefs, can also contribute to a neoliberal agenda in learning that reproduces social inequalities. By establishing connections between learners, tools, and contexts of use, this dissertation demonstrates how social class is an increasingly germane construct to examine these inequalities, particularly if understood as fluid, relational, and subjectively experienced. Drawing on these findings, the dissertation concludes that as learners move across linguistically diverse online spaces, the way they strategically negotiate relations of power shapes how they assert their identities as legitimate speakers, and invest in and divest from these spaces and their corresponding communicative practices (Norton, 2013). By shifting the focus from the integration of educational technologies to the teaching of an online communicative competence, language educators can empower L2 learners to navigate digital spaces more strategically, to imagine more equitable futures, and to transform the knowledge economy.

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