Drawing a line along the path we’ve taken this semester, it is easy to see we’ve covered a lot of ground. Every element, however, has been thoroughly connected through the common theme of text (including orality as its predecessor) and the increasingly rapid transformation it has undergone through the ages. From traditional texts, written on papyrus scrolls, to the text of today which is created, edited on read on glowing screens. What a remarkable transformation. And it’s not simply been the way in which we view text that has changed, but also the processes by which it is produced. I return to a quote shared at the beginning of the term when it was quipped that “the most important word processing is what goes on between your ears.” How appropriate!
This transformation has brought with it many ‘losses and gains’ – some of which have been lost forever, other elements which have been rediscovered through remediation. A constant and recurrent theme through the course was ‘remediation’. The remediation of print is the easiest example to point out, but we viewed elements of remediation in other advances including the development of ebooks, scrolling and hypertext as illustrations of a remediated past. Our text’s, both Ong and Bolter’s, provided us with the theoretical background to understand these advances more clearly. There will always be benefits and drawbacks to such advances. I recall posting on the enjoyment of physically holding a book and turning its pages, which cannot genuinely be replicated with a glowing tabled. The ability to wind down and relax before bed with a book is not quite the same with an ereader. I’ve argued that unlike the scroll, the book will not become obsolete because its so handy – it is ‘indestructible.‘ You can look at it quickly, it’s portable and you can transfer it into electronic format easily. Text communication technologies also appear to have lent themselves easily to the lazy manipulation of language for convenience sake, evident in the short hand messages people share via text and email.
There are, however, clearly a number of benefits to the direction we’ve gone. After all, we wouldn’t move to digital text technologies if there weren’t. At the beginning of the course we listened to an audio recording which gave us the following profound quote:
“We have been the victims of 100 years of monologue”.
This was in reference to the fact that mass media has traditionally had a one way flow – but this is no longer true. And our text technologies are an enormous part of this.
Through our course work we have tied or ideas closely not just to the writings of Bolter and Ong, but also to other theoretical frameworks which aid in our understanding. Technological determinism and continuity theory informed our discussion on the development of new technologies. I wrote that I believed the concept of technological determinism over simplified the process of adoption of technologies because it only looked at one principal or determining factor in explaining socio-historical phenomena. Continuity theory, on the other hand, has merit because its not an either/or situation with respect to oral and literary cultures. It represents a spectrum on which we can overlap experiences connected to both extremes. I think our exploration of oral and literary cultures is too easily separated into distinct spheres. I think the real interest lies in where these overlap. After all, we have more in common than we do differences.
For all the change we’ve experienced and studied, text remains the unifying thread through this all. As Dobson and Willinsky point out, “what we see of this [digital] literacy is remarkably continuous with the literacy of print culture”. Where we go from here is anyone’s guess. A new direction entirely, or perhaps the remediation again of a technology already used. What we can say is that whatever technology influences the next change in the spaces of reading and writing, we know it will be built on a framework which champions the value of text regardless of form – oral, visual or literate.
Bolter, Jay David. (2001). Writing space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print [2nd edition]. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Dobson, T. & Willinsky, J. (2009). Digital Literacy. In Cambridge Handbook on Literacy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Retrieved Dec 1, 2011, from http://pkp.sfu.ca/files/Digital%20Literacy.pdf
Ong, Walter. (1982.) Orality and literacy: The technologizing of the word. London: Methuen.