Twenty years ago, literacy was defined as simply being able to read and write. But today, in the twenty-first century, literacy seems to mean more than just the consumption of text. To be literate today, we not only have to be able to consume text and understand it, but we must also have an appreciation for the diverse contexts that the text originates from. “As in any perception, inferences in such [interactive] situations go beyond the information given, relying on the context rather than the stimuli only” (Hari and Kujala). In traditional literacy, such as the printed word, the entire context on the page is very explicit and mandated for us by the author; the context is generally familiar to us. In today’s literacy we have to understand the context from the location of origin, may it be geographic or cultural, of those people from all over the world who, because of technological advances, are now juxtaposed with us, making it a much more complex endeavor to reach literacy than it was in years past.
Because of the rise in technology, it’s now easier to communicate and keep in touch than ever before in human history. The speed of communication and the amount of information we are able to exchange and share is at an unprecedented all-time high and is only going to increase as we press forward. Yet this type of communication seems to come with some drawbacks, some of which people believe can actually be damaging to our social, communication, and language skills. Some researchers argue that there are very important differences between the reading of physical and digital texts. The kind of immersion that a physical book allows, such as the tactile hand and eye coordination, is not possible with digital materials. It’s been argued that this has immense implications for how deeply we read, how much information we retain, and how we can reflect on what we’ve read. The transition to digital dominance in the twenty-first century has great repercussions on the communication within society.
Anything that is excessive has the potential to be harmful. Because the world is now at our fingertips, it’s easier than ever to communicate with people across the world much faster. But an increase in quantity doesn’t always constitute an increase in quality, and communication is very much this way. If we objectively take a look back at some recent text-driven conversations and attempt to examine the depth and quality of the communication, chances are, they’re most likely going to be fairly low on both of these accounts. Now I don’t mean to say that one cannot have a meaningful, deep conversation through the use of technology, but it’s more unlikely to see deep, thoughtful conversation largely because of the amount of distractions we face while communicating with technology.
We’re a generation of multitaskers. Our minds are used to constant stimulation. Unless we are engaging in face-to-face communication with someone else, we are often not giving them our full, undivided attention. We’re browsing the web, playing a video game, doing homework, or maybe even engaging in conversation with another. We send a text here, an instant message there; we’re constantly picking up our phones, pausing whatever we’re doing in the present moment to send a 160 character message only to re-engage in the previous activity. And what you’re really saying to that person is: ‘I care about you and what you’re saying so much that it’s not worth my full attention’. “Humans typically carry out only one task at a time, and during dual tasks, the limits of attentional capacity are soon met” (Hari and Kujala). We’re beginning to use people in the same way that we use the multitabs on our internet browsers; they’re nothing more than time-fillers and distractions. We do this because we are so used to constant stimulation that we can’t handle downtime. We say, “maybe I’ll chat him or text her”. We don’t really want...
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