Beyond Literacy: Exploring a Post-Literate Culture #il2013 #internetlibrarian

Michael Ridley, University of Guelph, keynote

“The welcomed demise of literacy.”

“Reading and writing are doomed.
Literacy as we know it is over.
Welcome to a post-literate future.”

Literacy: visible language, reading and writing.

Literacy replaced orality, so it’s “inevitable” that something will replace it. He says this is a good thing.

It’s a thought experiment.

Online “book-like thing” at Collaborative authorship with students, etc. Set up at Pinterest site for the bibliography.

Marshall McLuhan: “We shape our tools and thereafter our tools shape us.”

Literacy lets us do great things, but it’s also a kind of prison.

Socrates said it was the end of memory.

There’s too much information.

Less than 3% of languages are “visible languages.”

In the 1700s, people felt there was too much info and invented encyclopedias, etc. Writing itself may have come from accounting (for animals, etc.).

Writing is hard to learn, difficult to use, slow to process, prone to error, insufficiently powerful, addictive.

Candidates for post-literacy:

– Bio-computng/neural prosthetics (“I think that’s good, and we should all get implants of some sort.”) He thinks this is more “hyper-literacy.”

– Telepathy / Techlepathy (He brings in a psychic to his classes!) Makes people nervous. Techlepathy is connecting yourself up to others through technology.

– Collective Unconscious (or Consciousness): Says quantum physics endorses this.

– Drugs / Cosmetic neurology

– Machine intelligence: close to computers that are smarter than we are.

Stages: disruption, suspicion, loss, unsophisticated use, early adopters, elitism & power, mainstream.

The idea of a sense of self comes from literacy.

The brain is a soup of chemicals and synapses, etc. What if we could create a drug that would “grow an understanding in your mind”? Learn French, for example. (Learn to love Big Brother, too?)

The Vulcan mind meld. There’s even a book that says this is possible. (“There really is a very strong scientific basis to this.”)

Asked students to think about how we get there. One answer: aliens.

William S. Burroughs: “Language is a virus from outer space.”

Samuel Beckett: “Try again. Fail again. Fail better.”

Beyond Literacy Radio podcasts. He wouldn’t let the students write a research paper, but as someone pointed out on Twitter, isn’t this a return to orality?

“We have to go there.” “It’s inevitable, it’s optimistic, it’s advantageous.”

Question: Have you considered a class where nothing is written? Answer: it wsn’t possible. We have to use the tools we have.

Had a class where two strangers suddenly danced around for half an hour with no explanation.

Question: teenagers communicate with Snapchat and Instagram. We still have to be literate to succeed. Answer: No, what teenagers do isn’t post-literate. Yes, you have to be literate now, but everntually reading will be a fetish (as Capt. Picard reads Shakespeare).

Question: if we can do telepathy, etc., why do we need oral langauage (or French)? Answer: oral language is innate, but written language is a tool. Eventually, the machine overlords won’t speak English, French, etc. (Only half-kidding when he said this.)

Question: will this help ADHD kids? Answer: we preference literacy in the extreme. People who have trouble with literacy could have other tools to succeed.

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