For us, then, a key strength of the Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives involves the ways in which the collection leverages the power of vernacular expression and personal representation. The Digital Archive of Literacy Narratives (DALN), in this sense, can be described, using Ivan Illich’s (1979) terms as a convivial tool rather than an industrial tool.

The DALN also aligns its values with the digital storytelling or “small media” movements that encourage individuals and groups to avoid the monopolizing effects of mass media on digital expression and invest their own interpretive efforts in vernacular digital spaces where power is distributed more broadly. Some scholars claim, further, that such spaces are more democratic (Meadows, 2003) because of decreased distance between the “conditions of cultural production and the everyday experiences from which…[these conditions] are derived and to which they return” (Burgess, 2006, p.1). Within vernacular spaces like the DALN, perhaps because there are “fewer barriers to forms of expression that might be deemed inappropriate elsewhere” (Bernal, 2006, p.166), the opportunity may exist for “dominant and exclusionary narratives to be effectively challenged, and indeed dismantled and reconstructed in ways that do not occlude the multiple experiences and realities that are implicated within them” (Daya and Lau, 2007, p. 6).

In short, we hope the first-hand literacy narratives within the DALN provide opportunities for writers (and those using other modalities) to develop an open and dynamic sense of their own literate and autobiographical selves, in whatever forms and ways they wish to represent these identities.

Tools are intrinsic to social relationships. An individual relates himself in action to his society through the use of tools that he actively masters, or by which he is passively acted upon. To the degree that he masters his tools, he can invest the world with his meaning; to the degree that he is mastered by his tools, the shape of the tool determines his own self-image. Convivial tools are those which give each person who uses them the greatest opportunity to enrich the environment with the fruits of his or her vision. Industrial tools decry this possibility to those who use them and they allow their designers to determine the meaning and expectations of others. Most tools today cannot be used in a convivial fashion.

(Illich, 1979, p. 34)