To what extent have the literacy practices of English speakers been shaped by communications technology? In this assignment I will be looking at the ways in which literacy practices have changed with the advent of technology. I will be focusing on how children use technology and how that differs from the way adults do. From the invention of writing to the printing press to the typewriter and the computer, the entire history of literacy has been dependent on the technical advances that it has used. According to Eisenstein ‘as printing came to supersede hand copying by scribes texts came to be more widely disseminated’ (p.282). Since the PC (the personal computer) became widely circulated the act of writing has had several factors which have recently disappeared. The most obvious of these is a record of errors made in the writing process. Traditional methods of writing have required that mistakes made be done over. Because of this, authors were more liable to take care with what they wrote. Today, with word processors, and programs to check spelling and grammar, this activity is much less common. Instead of carefully considering both the original words and any correction, the ease with which ideas can be revised allows ideas to be written down without much forethought, as errors are easily dealt with.
Technology evolves rapidly and what was considered new and unique becomes old and commonplace. The following three different types of literacy practices are all currently in use:
Newspaper vs. Blogs
Regular mail and phone are typically used for one-on-one communication. Newspapers and radio are older forms of one-to-many communication. Over the past decade, blogs arrived on the scene and they’ve had tremendous success as a form of one-to-many communication. The reason for this is that blogs leveraged something that was done very poorly in newspapers and somewhat better in radio – our need for feedback. Blogs made feedback frictionless. Anyone can comment on a post. The ability for people to get involved and to express their opinions, created a completely different dynamic, ‘building a faithful audience is one of the key social actions’ (p, 78). Email vs. Mail
Email is faster and virtual. It has different economics, since you do not have to pay per email message). Now, because email is delivered faster, we send more of it. Because we send more of it, each message is much smaller than a typical letter. So thinking about it this way, we realize that email not only redefined mail, it created a completely different way of communicating. Instead of sending more information less often, we send less information more often. The speed and quantity of communication has created a different communication medium. Phone vs. Chat
Before we had the Internet, we already had a way to communicate faster than via mail – the telephone. Phones allowed us to instantly get in touch. When the world went online, Instant Messaging was invented – which, unlike email, allowed people to reach each other immediately. But there are big differences between phone and chat. Conversations via chat do not have the same flow as a phone. Despite the differences, the key common attribute between a phone call and an instant message is essentially immediate reach-ability. There is no doubt that out of the three methods of communication children are most attached to phones. Mobile devices are an integral part of children’s lives and they are here to stay. Tools such as cell phones, iPod devices, and portable gaming platforms are used and enjoyed by children worldwide. Technology has unarguably had the greatest impact on language in the 21st century. Some have gone so far as to blame technology – from spellchecks to texting – for a supposed decline in youth literacy. Of course, whenever there is social or technological change, there are critics. While some of the criticisms have merit, others are extreme. For example, in an article in the guardian British...
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