The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing


“…a newer medium takes place of an older one, borrowing and reorganizing the characteristics of writing in the older medium and reforming its cultural space.” (Bolter, 2001, p. 23)

Bolter’s (2005) definition of remediation struck me a bit like a Eureka! moment as I sat at lunch in the school staffroom, overhearing a rather fervent conversation between a couple of teachers, regarding how computers are destroying our children. They noted how their students cannot form their letters properly, and can barely print, not to mention write in cursive that is somewhat legible. The discussion became increasingly heated as one described how children could not read as well because of the advent of graphic novels, and her colleague gave an anecdote about her students’ lack of ability to edit. When the bell rang to signal the end of lunch, out came the conclusion—students now are less intelligent because they are reading and writing less, and in so doing are communicating less effectively.

In essence, my colleagues were discussing what we are losing in terms of print—forming of letters, handwriting— the physicality of writing. However, I wonder how much of an impact that makes on the world today, and 20 years from now when the aforementioned children become immersed in, and begin to affect society. Judging from the current trend, in 20 years time, it is possible that most people will have access to some sort of keypad that makes the act of holding a pen obsolete. Yes, it is sad, because calligraphy is an art form in itself, yet it strikes me that having these tools allow us the time and brain power to do other things. Take for example graphic novels. While some graphic novels are heavily image-based, there are many that have a more balanced text-image ratio. In reading the latter, students are still reading text, and the images help them understand the story. By making comprehension easier, students have the time and can focus brain processes to create deeper understanding such as making connections with personal experiences, other texts or other forms of multimedia.

As for the communications bit, Web 2.0 is anything but antisocial. Everything from blogs, forums, Twitter, to YouTube all have social aspects to them. People are allowed to rate, tag, bookmark and leave comments. Everything including software, data feeds, music and videos can be remixed or mashed-up with other media. In academia, writing articles was previously a more isolated activity, but with the advent of forums like, scholarly articles could be posted, improved much more efficiently and effectively compared to the formal process that occurs when an article is sent in to a journal. More importantly, scholarly knowledge is disseminated with greater ease and accuracy.

Corporations and educational institutions are beginning to see a large influx of, and reception for Interactive White Boards (IWB). Its large monitor, computer and internet-linked, touch-screen abilities make it the epitome of presentation tools. Content can be presented every which way—written text, word processed text, websites, music, video, all (literally) at the user’s fingertips. The IWB’s capabilities allow for a new form of writing to occur—previously, writing was either with a writing instrument held in one’s hand, or via typing on a keyboard. IWBs afford both processes to occur simultaneously, alternately, and interchangeably. If one so chooses, the individual can type and write at the same time! IWBs are particularly relevant to remediation of education and pedagogy itself, because the tool demands a certain level of engagement and interaction. A lesson on the difference between common and proper nouns that previously involved the teacher reading sentences and writing them on the board, then asking students to identify them—could now potentially involve the students finding a text of interest, having it on the IWB, then students identifying the two types of nouns by directly marking up the text with the pen or highlighter tools.

Effectively, the digital world is remediating our previous notion of text in the sense of books and print. Writing—its organization, format, and role in culture is being completely refashioned.


Bolter, J. D. (2001). Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print (2 ed.). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

December 13, 2009   No Comments

Making [Re]Connections

This is one of the last courses I will be taking in the program and as the journey draws to a close, this course has opened up new perspectives on text and technology. Throughout the term, I have been travelling (more than I expected) and as I juggled my courses with the travels, I began to pay more attention to how text is used in different contexts and cultures. Ong, Bolter and the module readings were great for passing time on my plane rides – I learned quite a lot!

I enjoyed working on the research assignment where I was able to explore the movement from icon to symbol. It gave me a more in-depth look at the significance of visual images, which Bolter discusses along with hypertext. Often, I am more used to working with text in a constrained space but after this assignment, I began thinking more about how text and technologies work in wider, more open spaces. By the final project, I found myself exploring a more open space where I could be creative – a place that is familiar to me yet a place that has much exploration left to it – the Internet.

Some of the projects and topics that were particularly related to this new insight include:

E-Type: The Visual Language of Typography

A Case for Teaching Visual Literacy – Bev Knutson-Shaw

Language as Cultural Identity: Russification of the Central Asian Languages – Svetlana Gibson

Public Literacy: Broadsides, Posters and the Lithographic Process – Noah Burdett

The Influence of Television and Radio on Education – David Berljawsky

Remediation of the Chinese Language – Carmen Chan

Braille – Ashley Jones

Despite the challenges of following the week-to-week discussions from Vista to Wiki to Blog and to the web in general, I was on track most of the time. I will admit I got confused a couple of times and I was more of a passive participant than an active one. Nevertheless, the course was interesting and insightful and it was great learning from many of my peers. Thank you everyone.

December 1, 2009   1 Comment

The Age of Real-Time

I had the opportunity to go to the Annual Conference on Distance Teaching and Learning in Madison, Wisconsin this past August. The last keynote speaker, Teemu Arina discussed how culture and education are changing with emerging technologies. His presentation illustrated how we are moving from linear and sequential environments to those that are nonlinear and serendipitous. Topics of time, space and social media tie into Teemu’s presentation. The video of the presentation is about 45 minutes long but the themes tie nicely into our course and into many other courses within the MET program.

In the Age of Real-Time: The Complex, Social, and Serendipitous Learning Offered via the Web

November 24, 2009   No Comments

MIT Lab and the “Sixth Sense”

As one of themes of this course relates to technology and information retrieval and storage, I thought I would share this video. The folks at MIT have created a wearable device that enables new interactions between the real world and the world of data. The device, based on personal criteria that you input, allows you to interact with an environment and call up relevant information about it, simply by gesturing (e.g. while shopping a hand gesture will bring up information about a particular product). What is controversial about this device is that it makes it easy to infringe on people’s privacy. Filming and photographing can occur by simply moving one’s hand. Also, think about how annoying it is to listen to a multitude of mobile users chat in public spaces – this device allows a user to project and display information on any surface. Imagine, hundreds of people displaying information all over the place at once!

November 24, 2009   1 Comment

Rip.Mix.Feed Photopeach

Hi everyone,

For my rip.feed.mix assignment, I decided not to re-invent the wheel, but instead to add to an already existing wheel. When I took ETEC565 we were asked to produce a similar project when exploring different web 2.0 tools. We were directed to The Fifty Tools. I used PhotoPeach to create my story. My wife and I moved to Beijing in the fall of 2007 and we’ve been traveling around Asia whenever we get a break from teaching. The story I’ve made is a very brief synopsis of some of our travels thus far. Since the original posting, I have updated the movie with more travels. You can view the story here.  If you’re in China, the soundtrack U2 – Where the Streets Have No Name will not play because it is hosted on YouTube.

What I enjoy most about these tools is that they are all available online, all a student needs to create a photo story is a computer with access to the Internet. To make the stories more personal, it would be great if they had access to their own digital pictures. However, if they have no pictures of their own, they can find pictures, through Internet searches that give results from a creative commons license to include in their stories.

Furthermore, as I teach in an international school in which most students speak English as a second, third, or fourth language, and who come from many different countries, Web 2.0 has “lowered barrier to entry may influence a variety of cultural forms with powerful implications for education, from storytelling to classroom teaching to individual learning (Alexander, 2006).” Creating digital stories about their own culture provides a medium through which English language learners acquire foundational literacies while making sense “of their lives as inclusive of intersecting cultural identities and literacies (Skinner & Hagood, p. 29).” With their work organized, students can then present their work to the classmates for discussion and feedback, build a digital library of age/content appropriate material, and share their stories with global communities (Skinner & Hagood).



Alexander, Bryan. (2006). “Web 2.0: A New Wave of Innovation for Teaching and Learning?” EDUCAUSE Review, 41(2).

Skinner, Emily N. & Hagood, Margaret C. (2008). “Developing Literate Identities With English Language Learners Through Digital Storytelling.” The Reading Matrix, 8(2), 12 – 38.

November 22, 2009   2 Comments

Pioneer of the Visual

I do admit, I love Steven Jobs!  Here is a clip about a new book on his presentation secrets.  Note that he is called a master storyteller (back to our oral roots?) and that he uses visuals (slides) to create maximum impact (the breakout of the visual?).  This seems like a perfect example of multimodal communication where our use of visuals is allowing us to return to orality.

Secrets of Steven Jobs

It’s a shame the book does not actually include interviews with Steve Jobs.  (I wonder if the book is available in an electronic format?) 🙂



November 5, 2009   No Comments

Universal Library

I chose to write about the universal library because this topic has been close to my heart since I was 12 years old.  My biggest dream was to read all the books in the world in all the languages in the world.  Many of my friends were eager to point out how ridiculous that dream was – after all I only spoke Ukrainian and Russian and a bit of Polish and German – the basics I learned from my Grandmother.  I would not let these naysayers dissuade me from my dreams.  How difficult could it be to get a foreign book in translation?  By then I had already read all of Dumas’ adventures of the Three Musketeers and Jane Eyre as well as other classical writers.  Some books were typed on a typewriter and shared among trusted friends and you learned early on that those books were not to be talked about with people who you did not implicitly trust.

O’Donnell asserts that “[the] main features of this vision are a vast, ideally universal collection of information and instantaneous access to that information wherever it physically resides.”  This idea appeals to me tremendously I would love to be able to have access to all of Tolstoy’s works and be able to read my favorite passages whenever I like without having to dig through boxes or travel to the library.  This is not to say that I would not rather have a book in my hand but since it is not easy to find some books in their original language, especially the rare first editions, I would love to see a copy on line.  O’Donnell characterizes this as a

The dream today is weighed down with silicon chips, keyboards, screens, headsets, and other cumbersome equipment — but someday a dream of say telepathic access will make today’s imaginings suddenly as outmoded as a daisy-wheel printer.

It may be so, but where would we be without our imaginings?  The idea of a virtual library is a noble one.  As Hillis points out in the Brand article,” we are now in a period that may be a maddening blank to future historians–a Dark Age–because nearly all of our art, science, news, and other records are being created and stored on media that we know can’t outlast even our own lifetimes.”  True as this may be, should we stop all scanning projects because we are worried about being able to retrieve data.

I will tell you this- when I was doing the readings, and exploring the virtual libraries, I found books of songs and stories that my Grandmother sang and told me when I was a child.  What a gift from people who these books probably meant nothing to!  Where Stewart Brand prophesizes, “there has never been a time of such drastic and irretrievable information loss as right now” and blames the computer industry’s production schedule for the rapid advancement of standards, it must be pointed out – since the process of standardization really took hold, we have seen technologies last many years.  HTML is nearly twenty years old.(Wiki)  The JPEG picture format was defined as a standard in 1992. (Wiki)  The Portable Document Format (aka PDF) is over sixteen years old (Wiki) and is now an open standard.  And a file created with the first version of these standards can still be read on computers today.  He remarks “civilization time is in centuries” but how many of us can understand the earliest books in the English language?  Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales or even the works of William Shakespeare are only a few hundred years old, but they seem to be an entirely different language!

While it is true that the media will probably not outlast our lifetimes, I’m sure that was apparent to the authors of medieval manuscripts.  However – they did not stop copying out illuminated sheets of manuscript simply because they might not survive a fire.  The fires in Alexandria marked a huge blow to the body of knowledge of the time – but one fire in one city will not wipe out a universal library.  There will be backup to tapes, redundant hard drives, and redundant locations to store data.  Sure, if the power goes off that information will just sit there – but think about how it sits there.  Each hard drive is created as a sealed environment and the data could well be readable in 100 years.  The motor that drives the plates inside the drive may have failed, but the platters and the data they contain, could last a very long time.  Under ideal conditions, to be sure – but what book left outside on the table will last beyond the year?  The reason books have been such an efficient method of passing information across the ages isn’t because they are inherently better.  There have simply been so many of them written that a few were bound to make it.  Really, the body of knowledge we inherited from three hundred to two thousand years ago is remarkably small.  I do not know if a universal library will work better for longevity, but it will give more people access to books they might never have otherwise seen.  I do not advocate the end of all print media – it is good to have an alternative to the electronic versions, but I think the electronic versions will become the ones that people make use of.


Brand, S. (1999).  Escaping the Digital Dark Ages. Retrieved from

Kelly, K. (2006). Scan This Book! Retrieved from

O’Donnell, J. J.  The Virtual Library: An Idea Whose Time Has Passed. Retrieved from

O’Donnell, J. J. (1998). Avatars of the World: From Papyrus to Cyberspace. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1998. 44-49.  Retrieved from

October 6, 2009   1 Comment

Nailing Down Technology

nail down

“Technology” is almost as broad of a term as “text,” however; in the context of ETEC540, it’s a little easier to nail down.  My new understanding of these two concepts is that they clearly have something fundamental in common.  They are clearly both SYSTEMS.  Examining them together has helped me see this significant overlap.  Could we have “text” without “technology?”  No, because text is a technology of communication.  Could we have “technology” without “text?”

September 17, 2009   1 Comment

French Text Soup

onion soup

If you boil down all the definitions of “text” on medium heat and stirring often, what you get is essentially “language” soup.   Like an onion, both concepts can be deeply layered and infinitely complex, but both have the same general purpose.  Okay, so what is language then?  Well, it’s a system of communication.  And what’s the general purpose of an onion??  Well, to give us bad breath and make us cry.

September 17, 2009   No Comments