Wargo, “Spatial Stories”

Wargo, J.M. (2015). Spatial Stories with Nomadic Narrators: Affect, Snapchat, and Feeling Embodiment in Youth Mobile Composing. Journal of Language and Literacy Education, (11)1, 47-64.(17 pages)

Wargo unpacks one research participant’s Snapchat stories to explore how such apps afford a means of mediating an affective, phenomenological, spatio-visual experience. Specifically, he notes the highly embodied composing processes of users like his participant (Ben), particularly focusing on the ways that these users navigate and traverse a variety of environments and discourses through their “use of ephemeral media to recreate history/ies and remediated ‘me-s’” (49). Wargo offers a framework of elastic literacies that describes and takes into account “the types of practices that emerge from relational social ties and interactions with human and nonhuman actors across an array of environemnts…’the more elastic one’s identity, the more capacity one has to engage with one’s social surroundings, to react to  unfamiliar people and situations, and to reflexively incorporate the new interactions into their own personal narratives’” (Wang 2013, pg 31 qtd in Wargo 51). In other words, users of Snapchat—such as Ben—practice a kind of elastic literacy that is vital to navigating and traversing changing social, virtual, temporal, and built environments.

For Wargo, a central component of this kind of literacy is affective knowledge: per Lemke, affect describes “how feelings interact with meanings as we live our lives across places and times, being and becoming the persons we are moment to moment across longer timescales” (50).  As he writes, Affect involves a change in orientation and network as our “corporeal bodies come into contact with one another” (50). Affective intensities “are the push-and-pull between bodies through their contact, elision, and/or collision. Affective intensities often are sites of new expression and quality” (50).

In terms of Snapchat as one tool to trace elastic literacies and affective intensities, we must also contend with how it both enables creativity and trajectories of material embodiment never before experience, but it also constraints these experiences. However, Wargo does not quite attend to these limitations and looks more towards its potential and possibility. Namely, “Snapchat allowed Ben the opportunity to be an experienced architect, one whose own processes of embodied composing facilitate the touching of time and the possibility as spatial storyteller” (55). “For Ben, snapping is about curating an experience, collecting moments through visual frames to tell a moment, or perhaps to experience a rememory” (See: Britton; 56). Wargo refers to this curation of experience as “a storied assessment of experience” (56).

To conclude, Wargo explains that these affective navigations of experience via Snapchat—or mobile devices generally—youth allow new bodies to emerge as they interact with histories of space and the built environment itself: changing affective intensities operate as an inventive heuristic to re-see and re-image self and identity.

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