transnational literate lives in digital times: chapter 2.3

digital media & transnational connections: from Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Sydney, Australia
Cynthia L. Selfe, Gail E. Hawisher, Patrick W. Berry, Gorjana Kisa, Mirza Nurkic, Tessa Kennedy, and Kate Polglaze

Mirza Nurkic

Click on image to view Mirza discussing being Muslim <transcript>.

CHAPTER 2: Mirza Nurkic

During the Bosnian War, Mirza’s family opened their home in Sydney to a series of friends—primarily Muslim refugees—who needed a temporary place to stay before they found more permanent housing. Although Mirza himself identifies as a secular Muslim, he specifies that he has a “Muslim cultural outlook.”

"The political situation in the former Yugoslavia was deteriorating, and [my family] wanted to get out before anything happened. So they…actually got out before any of the…tensions… really started.… They moved here…in October of 1988."

Mirza discusses political situation.

Mirza discusses his family and the political situation <transcript>.

"We had family over there during the conflict, so we were always in touch.… Serbian friends…called up my dad when the war started and said, ‘Look, if you want to yell at me and scream your head off…please do…I feel so horrible about [the war].'"

Mirza discusses his family.

Mirza discusses his family in the former Yugoslavia <transcript>.

"By Muslim cultural leaning, I mean that in terms of…today's politics…I think I was sort of raised from that sort of ideological perspective, and it is still primarily sort of the lens through which I view…politics.…"

Mirza: More on the political situation

Mirza on his political views <transcript>

Mirza came from a highly educated family, with two parents having earned doctoral degrees, although he could not recall with certainty their respective fields. The ubiquitous nature of education in Mirza's home is connected with work that provided access to new technologies.

"My parents’ education…they both have Ph.D.'s…. I do know that my dad worked with very early computers in the 70s…and has worked with computers all his life."

Mirza on his parents' educational and professional backgrounds

Mirza on his parents' educational and professional backgrounds <transcript>

"My parents definitely had a lot of books around the house. We've had a book collection that has grown and grown and grown and grown…."

Mirza on books in his home

Mirza on books in his home <transcript>

Like Gorjana's, Mirza's literate life was richly textured and included the use of multiple languages. He, his younger sister, his mother, and his father speak Serbo-Croatian and English, although the children are increasingly apt to mix English words into their Serbo-Croatian conversations. When asked about his early experiences learning to read and write, he could not remember. As the clips below suggest, he was constantly negotiating multiple languages throughout his schooling.

"How I first learned to read and write—to be perfectly honest, I don't quite remember."

Mirza on early literacy experiences

Mirza on early literacy experiences <transcript>

"Whenever we had family friends around, with the children I would often speak English, and the parents would come in and say, ‘Don't speak English; you've got to speak Bosnian’.… I've always used Serbo-Croatian at home, but increasingly mixed with English."

Mirza on language practices at home

Mirza on language practices at home <transcript>

"As I was growing up, [my parents] definitely preferred for me to speak Bosnian at home…increasingly, they've given up."

Mirza on speaking Bosnian at home

Mirza on speaking Bosnian at home <transcript>

"…at high school we had to do four languages—German, French, Japanese, and Latin, each for a term—and then in Year 8 we had to choose one of them for the whole year, and I chose German because I thought it's closest to English and I thought therefore it must be the easiest, but of course it turns out, not so much."

 More on language practices in high school

More on language practices in high school <transcript>.

"I don't know how I learned to type…I imagine that I probably would have recognized the letters somehow. I definitely grew up watching Sesame Street.…"

Mirza on learning to type

Mirza on learning to type <transcript>

"I did learn…to write on a computer, like extended sort of pieces, probably during primary school."

More on learning to type

More on learning to type <transcript>

"There's definitely a protocol when it comes to breaking up. You never break up on text message or online…."

Mirza on dating and communication technologies

Mirza on dating and communication technologies <transcript>

"I consider [Facebook] a halfway point between e-mail and MSN messenger."

Mirza on using Facebook

Mirza on using Facebook <transcript>

"My mom's sister is married to a man who was the mayor of Sarajevo during the war, and he's now in some sort of high-ranking position…. He's quite well off compared to a lot of people back there. And so they've got broadband at home…and they use Skype to keep in touch with their daughter, who's studying in Austria."

Mirza on issues of access

Mirza on issues of access <transcript>.

"[I use] e-mail as well but that's a lot more [old-fashioned]…maybe to invite people to a birthday party….

Mirza on media use

Mirza on media use <transcript>

In some respects, Mirza was always more intimately involved with computers than Gorjana, perhaps in part because he was younger, but also because of his parents' professions. For as long as Mirza could remember, his family had had personal computers in their home—sometimes more than one. In addition, he and his parents used a range of information technologies to stay in touch with relatives in Bosnia-Herzegovina and other places around the world. Like Gorjana's family, Mirza and his parents matched the particular communication technology they used to that of their relatives, recognizing that not all of their family members had access to the same range of computer technology as they themselves did in Sydney.

Both Gorjana and Mirza use digital technologies extensively as a means of social networking. Gorjana, like her parents, uses digital technologies as well as paper technologies like letter-writing to stay in touch with friends and family members in Sarajevo. To maintain his social network of friends in Sydney, Mirza uses cell phones, MSN Messenger, Facebook, SMS, and e-mail. He explains, however, that of these forms of communication, he prefers online exchanges and Facebook to cell phone exchanges, not only because there is no "cost per call" for social interaction, but also because online exchanges give him the opportunity to reflect on his language use and the ability to take time to decide if and when to reply without seeming "rude." Mirza's sense of politeness also informs his understanding of when particular technologies are appropriate and inappropriate for use in dating and breaking up and for casual conversations. Perhaps most interesting to members of the interviewers' media generation was Mirza's observation that writing a letter to a girl he was dating would be perceived as both "creepy" and "clingy" within his local youth culture.

It is important to note here that we do not believe either that our analyses of the students' stories are fully explanatory or that they exhaust the power of these narratives. We acknowledge that the interpretation of these narratives is fragmentary—"emergent, unpredictable, and unfinished" (Denzin and Lincoln, 1994, p. 479). We are confident, however, that these stories will communicate their power to readers—and viewers—in their own way.

In the next part of this chapter, we meet Kate Polglaze and Tessa Kennedy, who, like Gorjana and Mirza, were able to forge their own ethnically diverse and linguistically rich identities.

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