From Computer Literate to De-Literate

September 24th, 2007

“Computer literate” is obviously not a new term or concept; we hear it often to refer to one’s general ability to understand and use a computer. I suggest it applies to the general ability to use a mouse/keyboard, perhaps to navigate the Internet, or to create a basic Word doc with bold headings and numbered lists. However, given the importance that computers have in our professional and personal lives, the term is really too general and broad for any real application. Without any direct context, a reader or audience of the term cannot fully know the concept to which the statement is referring. Read the rest of this entry »

When will the keyboard go away?

September 23rd, 2007

I have little to say on this point. Rather, I was hoping that others might opine on this. It seems that there are increasingly ways in which to communicate/interact with the computer. This topic does have obvious hints at my interest in orality. I could see successful communication with a decent microphone/software set-up and a mouse as not too far off. However, there are also virtual interfaces already, as well: those screens that can be projected a foot in front of the user’s face. Admittedly, I know very little about such technology, but I do hear people discussing this in regard to a desire to transcend the QWERTY (or other) keyboard.

Is it wrong to type 2 spaces?

September 23rd, 2007

Recently, I was speaking with my Father, who is truly one of the smartest, most well-read people I know. That said, he is, well… less-than-proficient in his knowledge and skill of computer use in general. I know many people who relate to this situation (that a similar statement can be said of their well-educated, successful, professional parents). He and I were discussing his habit of sticking to what I deem outdated writing practices, such as two spaces after a period.

A couple of days later, I had a student email and ask me if it is wrong to type two spaces after a period and if she could do so in my class.

She also mentioned that everyone at her place of employment uses two spaces and that she has always done it that way. [It should be noted that in a previous Discussion Board conversation with the class that week on the topic of effective writing techniques, I stated that the students should avoid using the double-space after end punctuation.] Fueled by the conversation with my father and by the synchronicity of the topic arising more than twice in one week, I wrote the following response to her: Read the rest of this entry »

It’s Still Orality to Me – or – But, We Still Teach Orally

September 13th, 2007

In Chapter Two, “The Theory of Transformative Technologies,” in Michael Heim’s Electric Language, he discusses Walter Ong and Eric Havelock and their (separate) studies of orality. The background for my next point is essentially his discussion of the reason for epic poems and sagas of oral cultures being not for poetic purposes as we generally think them to be. That is, they were not for any aesthetic purposes, but rather, they were tales constructed in very structured, rhythmic style for the purpose of memory. Because oral (preliterate) cultures preceded writing and, of course print, speakers came up with various methods, such as these to enhance both understanding and retention of anything that was to be remembered. To help one remember something that was taught, he or she (mostly “he” in ancient Greece) repeated the speech, sometimes many times.

I agree with this point and will soon expand on it, bringing in other examples, such as the passing on of the Koran for many years before it was finally written. However, it was a different point of Heim’s that sparked today’s entry. In discussing the transformation of oral to written culture (and Ong’s theory of the chirographic culture), Heim writes:

Memory, the storehouse of knowledge, no longer depends on repeated vocal performances. Manual writing preserves knowledge beyond ephemeral speech and beyond the lapse in memory. In chirographic cultures, the performance of language by a speaker is no longer essential. (Heim pg. 62).

In some ways, this citation refers to instruction, and the relationship of teacher to learner, not just speaker to listener, in that in oral culture, one reason to repeat a speech so many times was to pass it on and, as Heim notes, writing it it down preserves knowledge in tht it can be more easily and accurately (presumably) passed on. However, I immediately thought that his statement is not wholly true – that the speaker is no longer essential if all text can be put into a book. What of the classroom? Read the rest of this entry »

A New Literacy?

September 12th, 2007

One consideration within my larger discussion and interest of new media (NM) as a return to orality is that it requires a new literacy. Clearly, I do not believe that the advent of podcasting and comparable trends are returning us to a solely oral culture. You can’t unknow what you know. That is, we have come this far with technological advancements in communication  (Plato to papyrus to pencils to programming to projectors to processors to podcasts). Short of events following some apocalyptic future, we are not going to throw away all such communication technologies and go back to solely oral exchanges.

So, the direction I’m pushing this theory is that we, as a technological culture have this trend (or group of related trends) within NM that has brought about a new orality. Is it a “return”? It is, in the sense that it again places with us the ability to communicate orally/aurally in way that we’ve not relied upon in centuries. However, it includes communication methods that we’ve used daily throughout our transition from oral to literate culture, and includes new methods, as well. It is, perhaps, this merging of tradition and more recent technology, that make NM an entirely new concept. So, in that sense, NM is not a return as much as it is a largely new method of presentation and communication with similarities to oral cultural and aspects that can be traced from oral culture to literate to print to film to Web to NM. Read the rest of this entry »