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Yellow umbrellas– recontextualisation in multimodal literacy practices of the Hong Kong student protests of November 2014

Research output: Working paperDiscussion paper

Publication date17/02/2015
<mark>Original language</mark>English


The convergence of student protests and the Occupy movement in Hong Kong has brought about an extraordinary flowering of “literacy as design” (Kress, 2003). Students demanding greater democracy occupied three areas of central Hong Kong. On 28th September police attacked protesters with tear gas; umbrellas were one of the defensive measures used and the yellow umbrella became the chief emblem of the movement. The Umbrella Movement evolved into an extraordinary three-sited flourishing of multimodal artefacts that simultaneously embed the criticality, multimodality and design characteristic of multiliteracies (Lankshear and Knobel, 2007; Gillen and Passey 2011). I visited two of the Umbrella Revolution sites in the first week of November, 2014 taking photographs, collecting media, and talking with protesters and others with a variety of viewpoints. I have been assisted by students from Hong Kong in identifying an immense reach of cultural references. I will focus on three multimodal artefacts: a yellow umbrella, a sculpture of a tank and a map. Each demonstrates criticality in the present and imagination in design that simultaneously elicits knowledge from “readers” of salient recontextualisations from past decades and even centuries. Our analyses demonstrate wonderful instances of “transformed practice, in which pupils, as meaning-makers, become designers of social futures” (Cope and Kalantzis, 2000: 7). Cope, B. & Kalantzis, M. (eds) (2000) Multiliteracies: Literacy Learning and the Design of Social Futures. London: Macmillan. Gillen, J. & Passey, D. (2011) Digital literacies in the making: schools producing news with the BBC. Nordic Journal of Digital Literacy 1-2 37-51. Kress, G. (2003) Literacy in the New Media Age. London: Routledge. Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (2007) A New Literacies Sampler. New York: Peter Lang.

Bibliographic note

Paper presented to the Lancaster Literacy Research Discussion Group