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Clive Thompson on the New Literacy

September 22, 2009

We discussed in class last week how the technology of writing changed everything.  The way specific writing technologies continue to do so keeps coming up and will continue to be a theme of the course.  What I like about this article is that it bypasses quick evaluative assumptions (usually based either on fear, on the one hand, or untested utopian claims on the other) to define terms and discuss evidence.

The question:  is socialmedia (facebook, texting etc) making student writing better or worse?  The question may lack subtlety but the answer can be surprisingly complex.  How do we define what “good” means, anyway?  The study discussed here goes some way to start.  The findings warrant some attention:

Clive Thompson on the New Literacy

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One comment

  1. I think that more and more people are writing is definitely a good thing. I agree with John Sutherland’s analysis that texting has “dehydrated language”, however, Saying that “an age of illiteracy is at hand” is going a bit overboard. Andrea Lunsford’s claim that we are in “midst of a literacy revolution” that rivals that of Greek civilization is not exactly accurate. I think the correct analysis is somewhere in the middle of these opposite extremes. One thing that can be said is that literacy has a new persona with the advancements of technology. A text message isn’t exactly the same as composing the next great work of literature nor should it be dismissed as irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. The contents of a text message may not be of any relevance to anyone except for the person sending or receiving it, yet it still is a form of communication. The importance of such a phenomenon should at least be acknowledged.



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