The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing

Commentary # 2: Multiple Intelligences, Hypertext and Hypermedia: Are They Connected?

Commentary # 2: Multiple Intelligences, Hypertext and Hypermedia: Are they Connected?

by  Delphine Williams Young

ETEC 540       University of British Columbia    November 15, 2009


The continuation of the remediation of print in human history as explored by David Bolter (2001) implies that humans are always engaged in the process of configuring ways to improve the transmission of information and ideas. Bolter suggests a tension between visual and print modes that is also continuing in education, despite the unregulated and unstructured journey from medieval iconography to print, then to photographic and electronic visual presentation. “It is interesting to speculate how photography, film, television and multimedia might have been developed and used, if Western cultures could somehow have jumped over the technology of printing and gone directly from iconography to photographic and electronic visual presentation” (Bolter, p.55). According to Bolter, visual technologies had to struggle to highlight themselves within a culture of prose and the earlier verbal rhetoric. (p. 55). Could it be that this recursive pattern somehow connected to the way in which Howard Gardner (1993) represents human intelligence? Could it be the source of this disorganized development of writing technologies?

     Gardner’s theory emerged from cognitive research and suggests that there are seven multiple intelligences which can be used to describe the way humans perceive and interact with the world as intelligent beings, which are the: linguistic, logical mathematical, musical, bodily-kinesthetic, spatial-visual, interpersonal and intrapersonal ( (Mckenzie, 2005). Despite documenting these seven, Gardner suggests that there are others which he attempts to describe in his later work but these seven have been useful to educators. They help to determine individual differences and have allowed many teachers to target their learners effectively. Could it be that the shifting which has been taking place throughout the ages, which Bolter articulates as “a process of cultural competition between or among technologies” (p.23), be as a result of the various different individuals possessing varied multiple intelligences? Bolter suggests that the shift which occurs as remediation usually takes place when new technology replaces an older one by “borrowing and reorganizing the characteristics of writing in the older medium and reforming its cultural space” (p. 23). The writing done on papyrus remediated oral communication by allowing for the eyes and ears to be involved and so giving the words “a different claim to reality” ( p.23). The persons involved in effecting this remediation all possess a very constant variable, their humanity. With an application of  Gardner’s theory there is a very likely possibility, in addition to the human desire to improve on existing technologies, that many of the inventors and innovators throughout history possessed varied learning styles which propelled them to add and subtract in order to arrive at technologies which seem to address all seven multiple intelligences. Hypertext is one such technology.

     In this century, “hypertext”, according to Bolter, is not without hypermedia which offers so much more to the reader than the printed word. Bolter sees it as offering a “second challenge to the printed book” (p.47).  The current old fashioned print which may seem like simple and natural communication, at this cultural moment, especially to those who are perhaps not digitally literate, in comparison to the electronic hypertext might not seem so in the years to come. It might actually more natural for some information to be represented as hypertext (Bolter, p. 46). An examination of hypertext reveals that all the multiple intelligences are represented in the way the technologies are combined. I say combined whilst Bolter proclaims ‘remediation.’ For linguistic learners which learn through words and language there is text to be read and to be responded to by the user. There are logic and numbers to be manipulated by the logical-mathematical learner. Sound, music and rhythm are available and easily accessed for those who are musically oriented. Images and spaces are varied for spatial learners. According to Sherry Turkle (2004) “[f]or some people cyberspace is a place to act out unresolved conflicts, to pay and replay characterological difficulties on a new and exotic stage” (p. 23). Virtual communities offer opportunities for adolescents and young adults to interact anonymously with different identities in an attempt to concretize their own sense of self. Both the interpersonal and the intrapersonal intelligences are catered for as individuals interact with each other using the above media.  Finally, the bodily-kinesthetic is addressed in two ways. The tools and equipment are handled in the process of using them and there are visual media which portray motion that the user can get involved in. An example of hypertext combined with hypermedia which is can be recognized as the World Wide Web. 

     Whilst Bolter cites several educational theorists who have examined the effectiveness of hypertext and hypermedia as new dialogic forms, he also recognizes that the academic community is showing reluctance to participate in some of the refashioning that writing technologies have undergone. The World Wide Web that I find very useful is sometimes rejected as not having material of high calibre. Bolter also points out that popular culture which includes “the business and entertainment world and most users have shown little interest in a serious critique of digital media, but they are all eager to use digital technology to extend and remake forms of representation and communication” (p.118). If the hypertext and hypermedia have remediated print to the extent that they are capable of addressing all the various multiple intelligences, then educators need to embrace them as they did the multiple intelligences, then the quality of instruction will improve and learning will be maximized. The experience that educators had while learning the original classic works will change, and continue to undergo change, so rather than resist the change educators will have to join in and become digitally literate. A   book though not able to address all human needs will still be easier to carry and handle than an electronic one will. This does not change the idea that educators need to listen to the inner voice of the students like these.




Bolter, D. J. (2001). Writing Space Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbalm Associates.

Gardner, H. (1993). Frames of the Mind: The Theory of Multiple of Intelligences. New York : Basic Books.

Mckenzie, W. (2005). Multiple Intelligences and Instructional Technology. Washington: iste Publications.

Turkle, S. (2004). Whither Psychoanalysis in Computer Culture. Psychoanalytic Psychology , 16-30.

Worchester. T. (2009). Multiple Intelligences and Technology. Retrieved from

November 15, 2009   2 Comments

Commentary # 2

The Shrinking World. Literacy and Culture in the Digital Age

A Commentary on Bias and Technology

By David Berljawsky

Submitted to Prof. Miller

Nov 15, 2009

Modern technology has made the world a more streamlined and connected place. However there are many benefits and shortcomings that have arisen. One only needs to be aware of the way that hypertext has been developed to understand the inherent problem of digital technologies. It was created with a particular culture in mind, and represents the creator’s technological ideals and values. Despite this it is used by many different cultures around the world “…Freire’s ideas undermine the local commons by transforming indigenous ways of knowing, making them more susceptible to economic and technological globalization and thereby contributing to the loss of traditional ecological knowledge systems… (Bowers, from Lange, p.355).” Despite the aforementioned misgivings, there are many positives found about the current state of hypertext and the modern age. This paper will examine how the current hypertext revolution affected different cultures and the pros and cons of digital literacy in cultural terms.

If one looks at hypertext as a commodity, then it has been nothing but a smashing success. It has for all intents and purposes transformed our world. There is now an increase in long distance communication, global boundaries have been shrunk and news and media are more available than ever before. As with nearly every commodity there are people who benefit from it more than others do.  IT technologies not only have a bias, but often have technological limitations that handicap other cultures. “The cost of the new technologies, the geographic isolation of many communities, low levels of computer literacy and lack of awareness of how to technologies might serve indigenous goals and interest have led to this low adoption of the technology (Dyson, Hendriks and Grant, p.10).”

There is no question that modern internet technologies benefit the dominant western culture. Other cultures need to tread carefully when using this technology.  Its usage can initially be seen as exciting and as having the ability to advance one culture and knowledge.  “Writing is often regarded at first as an instrument of secret and magic power (Ong, p.92).”  Remember, writing and literacy is a technology.

How does this affect other non-dominant cultures? In terms of culture and identity much can be lost. If internet technologies are used to share values, transmit beliefs and other culturally specific ideals this can negatively affect the authenticity of the culture and their literary technologies. They are using a medium that was not designed for them, and is not representative of their values, education system and beliefs.   “Similarity, it is the nature of the computer that determines which patters of thinking, communication, or experiencing will be reinforced as well as which patterns will be marginalized or represented as nonexistent (Bowers, et al, p.186).”

If we continue down this path much will be lost. Other forms of literacy, that are not of the western dominant style will be changed to a hybrid of their original style and of modern western based technology. Perhaps they will be lost completely.  Computers and internet technologies are not around to promote multicultural values. Ultimately they are a commodity and need to be viewed as such.  “The computer industry has multibillion dollar reasons for maintaining the myth that computers are a culturally neutral technology. (Bowers et al, p.184).”

In terms of literacy there are many benefits to living in this day and age. One major benefit of modern technology is the ability to educate using the internet and computer. There are certainly positives to using this technology to promote literacy. “Certainly, digital literacy carries with it the potential for a far wider, more global access to knowledge… (Dobson and Willinsky, p.1).”

Students are able to communicate with other cultures and learn from each other like never before. This increased multicultural knowledge can be enhanced through the internet.  There are also countless software applications that allow students to increase their literacy and typing ability. It is imperative that educators realize that they should not simply rely on these technologies to teach because of the dependence that it can create. They also need to educate about the technologies inherent bias and shortcomings to allow students to be able to make their own decisions.  “Increasingly, students come to online learning with preconceptions gathered from both formal and informal experience in virtual environments. They exercise their mastery of communication norms and tools, some of which are not appropriate to an educational online context (Anderson, p.48).”

There is always the danger with certain cultures that they will use modern technologies to promote their causes and improve literacy. “Individuals and whole culture do mold techniques and devices to their own purposes, but the material properties of such techniques and devices also impose limitations on their possible uses (Bolter, p.20).” Often, when a culture or group becomes too attached to a technology, they lose something else. We may develop an increase in digital literacy, but we will likely lose a form of non-digital literacy in return. This is a form of progress, and can be seen as either positive or as a negative as long as one is aware of it happening. Postman discussed this in great detail in Technopoly, “If it makes sense to us, that is because our minds have been conditioned by the technology of numbers so that we see the world differently than they did. Our understanding of what is real is different (Postman, p.13).”

In conclusion I believe that it is important for educators to understand that literacy is evolving. We no longer can take for granted that all students are going to have learned literacy in the older, old fashioned way. It is important to understand that the internet is also not the most culturally advanced tool out there. However with the proper education and understanding of its biases it can advance the quality of life, and education for many cultures. Educators need to be aware of this because without the proper knowledge of how to manage and harness this technology it can hurt the longevity and authenticity of a culture “…but as its use expands and intensifies, so does the ‘overseeing gaze’ of encapsulation policies and transnational corporations (Prins, p.7).”


Ong, Walter, J. (1982). Orality and Literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. London and New York: Methuen.

Postman, N. (1992). Technopoly: The surrender of culture to technology. New York: Vintage Books.

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. (OlsonD., TorranceN., Ed.). Cambridge Handbook on Literacy. [Book Chapter]

Lange, Elizabeth A. (2007). Transformative Learning: The Trojan Horse of Globalization? Concordia University College of Alberta. Alberta, Canada.

Prins, H. E. L. (2002). Visual Media and the Primitivist Perplex: Colonial Fantasies, Indigenous Imagination, and Advocacy in North America. In Faye D. Ginsburg, Lila Abu-Lughod, and Brian Larkin (Eds.), Berkeley Media Worlds: Anthropology on a New Terrain, (pp.58- 74). University of California Press.

Anderson, T. (2008). Toward a theory of online learning. In T. Anderson & F. Elloumi (Eds.) Theory and Practice of Online Learning, Chapter 2 (pp. 45-74).  Available online at:

Bowers, et al. (2000) Native People and the Challenge of Computers: Reservation Schools, Individualism, and Consumerism in American Indian Quarterly, Vol. 24, No. 2 (Spring, 2000), pp. 182-199.

Dyson, L. Hendriks, M & Grant, S. (2007) Information Technology and Indigenous People. United States of America, Information Science Publishing.

November 15, 2009   1 Comment

From tangible to electronic

Commentary #3 – In response to Bolter, Chapter 5 The Electronic Book from Writing Space

Much thought continues to go into the shift from the book to the electronic book. That is, an electronic entity that replaces the need for a tangible book. Bolter (2001), in Chapter 5 – The Electronic Book of his book Writing Space, explores the differences, similarities, practicalities and otherwise significant characteristics of both the book and the emerging electronic versions of it. This chapter begs the reader to contemplate the affordances of the electronic book and think critically about how the nature of the book will continue to evolve. Beyond unpacking the implications of the electronic novel, Bolter discusses the electronic book in general and his discussion warrants a further look at the electronic version of textbooks and books used for research purposes. Interestingly, I find it uncomfortable to use the word “book” for the purpose of this commentary when referring to an electronic book. The word “book” itself denotes the sense of containment afforded by a cover, a back and a spine. The open-endedness of technology means that book wouldn’t be the appropriate term, but rather electronic information or electronic resource, would be more appropriate when referring to electronic versions of the tangible book.

There is no question that the book in its tangible form represents a sense of permanency in comparison to its digital counterpart. We are re-envisioning the way we look at print resources and at its technological counterpart and we have now come to have expectations of print as a result off what is available via technology. Bolter notes, “as we refashion the book through digital technology, we are diminishing the sense of closure that belonged to the codex and to print” (2001, p. 79). The very nature of technology requires that information is constantly evolving and there is a sense when visiting sites online that upon a return visit, changes will have been made. Working in special education, we refer to Individual Education Plan’s (IEP’s) as “living documents”, that is, documents that don’t remain fixed but rather change and evolve as necessary. This parallel works well with Bolter’s discussion but warrants the question of how evolving and living information can be appropriately organized. This is where hypertext becomes the defining technological feature that allows the information itself to dictate the nature of organization.  Bolter says “its organization, the principles by which it controls other texts, and the choice of organizing principles depends on both the contemporary construction of knowledge and the contemporary technology of writing” (2001, p.84). The contemporary technology that we are currently using to further the precision by which we organize is hypertext, and that hypertext is creating parallels and links between information in a way that the tangible book simply cannot. A common challenge presented by the tangible book is the ability to collect, in one location, enough sources to properly conduct research.

Whereas pre-technological forms of organization only allowed for a piece of information to be housed in one category, electronic affordances remove the issue of quantity. As a university student, I was often frustrated by the fact that the perfect book to help support my thesis would be on loan, and I would be forced to wait or settle for different, and sometimes seemingly lesser, information.  By storing resources digitally and organizing it appropriately, I would argue that the nature of research would actually improve because of the greater access afforded by electronic information. Bolter’s Chapter 5 leads me to believe that the ideal situation would be to have access to giant online encyclopedia that incorporates links to all related books on a subject (scanned in and searchable through the Google Books Project naturally) and all related sites through the use of hyperlinks. While Wikipedia exists as a popular encyclopedia, the openness it allows in editing articles does not make the Wiki conducive to facilitating electronic books.

Earlier in Writing Space, Bolter argues “in graphic form and function, the newspaper is coming to resemble a computer screen, as the combination of text, images, and icons turns the newspaper into a static snapshot of a World Wide Web page” (2001, p.51). While books may not be able to resemble a computer screen as easily as a newspaper, there is certainly a need for innovation in the presentation of books given the technological culture we now live in. While Kindle and other systems have continued the evolution of how a story is told, there needs to be a system by which informational texts can be made electronic and further improve the nature of how we come to know about a subject. Already, electronic textbooks contain links and virtual activities that have enhanced the learning experience. Bolter lays the framework for analyzing the nature of improvements that moving to the electronic book will afford and it is clear that electronic books will lead to greater access and therefore greater understanding of information now contained outside of the container of a tangible book.


Bolter, Jay David. (2001). Writing space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print [2nd edition]. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

November 15, 2009   1 Comment

Remix photo

Remix photo

I chose to remix a photo. The original photo was found on flickr and is a photo that the user ‘Whiskeygonebad’ had taken in 1976 while in the hallway of his high school. I decided to remix it and add an iphone and a laptop, two types of technology that we see high school students using in this day of age. Enjoy!


1. FDR HS Hallway 4 Students. / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
2. Ipod. / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
3.  Laptop computer. Retrieved from the website at:—Laptop-Computer_web.jpg?&%3Bk=Laptop+Computer

November 15, 2009   1 Comment

Images Before Computers

 “My sense is that this is essentially a visual culture, wired for sound – but one where the linguistic element… is slack and flabby, and not to be made interesting without ingenuity, daring, and keen motivation. (Bolter, p. 47.)  Bolter quotes Jameson in The Breakout of the Visual for the purpose of illustrating how “very different theorists agree that our cultural moment – what we are calling the late age of print – is visual rather than linguistic.” (Bolter, p48)  One needs only to look around us and see how prevalent images are in our everyday life especially when pertaining to advertising on the outside on billboards, busses and storefronts.  The space is limited therefore the images have to be much more compelling without actually using a lot of words. 

Both Kress and Bolter assert that the use of image over print is a relatively new phenomenon which has happened as a result of computer use and hypertext.  If we look at the history of advertising, we can see that the shift was occurring and becoming culturally entrenched before the wide use of computers. Bolter asserts that “in traditional print technology, images were contained by the verbal text.” (p.48)  He is absolutely right when referring to books and magazine articles but when looking at printed ads, we can see that images play a more primal role. 

Since we live in a commercially driven capitalist (market) society which is highly dependent on the sale of unnecessary items, much capital and research has gone into how to sell every product imaginable.  It may have become a cliché, but only because it is true – sex sells.  Here is a very interesting web site that highlights some of the more ludicrous examples.  (

United States and Canada are made up of many people, representing various diverse cultures and languages.  Images are pretty much universal although we do have to be careful as some may not be as universal as others.  “The main point is that the relationship between word and image is becoming increasingly unstable, and this instability is especially apparent in popular American magazines, newspapers, and various forms of graphic advertising.” (p.49)  I would assert that the relationship was already unstable when computers became prevalent.  Computers allowed people the forum of discussion and quick access to the images which were previously viewed in isolation.  There is no doubt that hypertext allows a further foray into the world of image and freed the image from the binding of the text.  Kress points out the obvious and is not always correct.  When he states that “[the] chapters are numbered, and the assumption is that there is an apparent building from chapter to chapter: [they] are not to be read out of order. [at] the level of chapters, order is fixed.” (Kress, p.3)  It is a mistake to limit our study of the remediation of print by simply looking at text in books.  If we expand our focus, as we must to properly discuss the subject, and include magazines and printed ads, evidence clearly points to the fact that the image was becoming more dominant before the prevalent use of computers.  Like books, magazines and authors who wrote for them also knew “about [their] audience and … subject matter” (Kress p.3).  Unlike books where the order is very rigid, a magazine can be read in any order you like. 

Bolter acknowledges the influence of magazines and advertising on remediating text and images by stating that in Life magazine and People magazine “the image dominates the text, because the image is regarded as more immediate, closer to the reality presented. 

Bolter’s use of the shaving picture from the USA Today is an excellent example of images becoming central in print.  However, I think he is being generous when he states that “designers no longer trusted the arbitrary symbolic structure of the graph to sustain its meaning … .” (Bolter, p.53)  I see it more as more pandering to the lowest common denominator.  The designers do not trust the public’s ability to read a graph rather than the graph’s ability to “sustain its meaning.” (Bolter, p. 53)  It seems that the need to dummy text down is a comment not only on the writer’s faith in the public’s ability to interpret text but also to interpret images.  Images are becoming more and more basic and try to appeal to our primal senses and needs – for instance, using sex as a vehicle to increase sales.   

 The existence of the different entry points speaks of a sense of insecurity about the visitors.  This could also be described as a fragmentation of the audience—who are now no longer just readers but visitors, a different action being implied in the change of name, as Kress points out.

Kress succinctly addresses the power of the image in the example of Georgia’s drawing of her family.  We can clearly see the differences and interpret them the way the creator of the drawing intended.  The placement of the little girl in the drawing tells us about how she views herself in terms of her place in the family.  There are no words and none are needed for the image really is worth a thousand words. 

Perhaps it is fitting that in this fast paced world we live in, we are moving away from the art of writing, which does take time to both produce and consume to the image which takes time to produce but is designed to be consumed very quickly.  However, to tie this change directly to the rise in the use of computers is to blind oneself to the rich legacy of printed images in advertising prior.

Bolter, D. (2001). Writing space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print [2nd edition]. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum

Kress, G. (2005). Gains and losses: New forms of texts, knowledge, and learning. Computers and Composition, 22(1), 5-22.

Inventor Spot.  (2009).  15 Ads That Prove Sex Sells… Best?  Retrieved 12 November, 2009, from

November 15, 2009   1 Comment

In Search of Connections


  Kevin Kelly articulates in “Scan this Book”, (New York Times, May 2006) the concept of the virtual library. The dream has always been to have “…in one place all knowledge, past and present” (Kelly, 2006, p.1). There are two common themes throughout the paper: one of access and the other of relationships. There are a number of hurdles presented, including ownership and copyright laws.

The universal library will change the concept of the book and the nature of what we call libraries (Kelly, 2006). “The collective intelligence of a library allows us to see things we can’t see in a single, isolated book” (Kelly, 2006, p. 5). Universal access will break down the barriers and change the concept of knowledge acquisition.

However, is having ‘all’ knowledge in one place realistic? Can we not find the knowledge we need already present on the Internet? Will greater access to text increase society’s wisdom and present knowledge and preserve our history and maintain our present culture? Is text we presently have available to us through the written work in libraries and on the Internet sufficient, or what is it lacking? These questions appear not to be answered in Kelly’s article.

There is a lot of information in this article, but I would like to focus on the access to virtual libraries, and their relationships with books and with people. The virtual library devises a new culture of interaction and participation, which changes how readers interact with books and the individual (Kelly, 2006).    


 Kelly explains that the universal library will be accessible to all. “We can provide all the works of humankind to all the people of the world. It will be an achievement remembered for all time, like putting the man on the moon.” (Kelly, 2006, p.1). He also reiterates that the process will be  “…truly democratic, offering every book to every person” (Kelly, 2006, p. 1). O’Donnell (n.d.) cites total inclusiveness and access to the virtual libraries as the ideal (p. 2). One needs to wonder how this process can truly be democratic when any country or individual who does not have the technology will not be able to access a universal library, or have a vote in the ‘democratic process’. Google has taken on the initiative to scan, and also glean the benefits, of creating a central location to accumulate all the knowledge and information of the world. With these ambitions come many barriers.

The digital divide continues to persist throughout the world. The article continues by telling the reader that the people who will most benefit will be the underserved by ordinary paperback books (Kelly, 2006). Countries and people who presently do not have access to libraries, or money to buy books will still not be able to access the virtual library as the technology, which costs money and resources to obtain, will still not be available. While those who do have access (equipment and the Internet), searching, creating and access will be inherently free.

The virtual library will allow a new infrastructure within a library setting. A reader will be able to access the library from anywhere and will be able to access multiple books at one time. With the mass production of the book came improved access to the written text. Mass production also provided the availability of cheap books to individuals (individual ownership) and libraries now had a large quantity of books at their disposal (Kelly, 2006).


Digital libraries will keep books and people connected in new and various ways to each other. This is inherently done through the ‘link’ and the ‘tag’, which are considered one of the most important inventions of the last 50 years (Kelly, 2006). By linking pages, each book can refer to multiple other books. Bibliographies and references can be automatically linked to other bibliography and reference lists, making it easier to research and follow a theme, topic or idea. Books will now have relationships with each other. “The process can continue indefinitely as the reader moves through textual space that, in the case of the World Wide Web, can extend throughout the Internet”(Bolter, 2001, p.27). The interlinking of information forms communities of knowledge that are linked with new meaning and worth.

When books are interconnected, four things occur:

  1. Books on the fringes will find a wider audience
  2. History will be recorded
  3. Society will cultivate a new sense of authority
  4. A new infrastructure will develop, allowing never seen before services and functions (Kelly, 2006).

Hypertext also allows various connections and associations. “The connections of a hypertext constitute paths of meaning for the author and for the reader. Each topic may participate in several paths, and its significance will depend on which paths the reader has traveled in order to arrive at that topic” (Bolter, 2001, p. 35). With hypertext the writers and creators can now interact, create and communicate with a computer screen that has no equivalent in oral language (Bolter, 2001). Along with hypertext comes the significance of ‘search’.

The function of search has altered the concept of knowledge acquisition. Search adds social and inherent value to what you are looking for (Kelly, 2006) and creates connections as new information is linked with existing information. Searching allows access and gives the reader the control and freedom of discovery.


Kelly states that there are a number of barriers that are present to block the universal digital library from occurring; including lack of books, copyrights, intellectual property laws and the very logistics of scanning a copious amount of books. Presently there is a lawsuit against Google for copyright infringement as laws surrounding intellectual property, particularly of the deceased, continue to burden Google’s objectives.


Many books add more value than one book. The task of organizing all knowledge and information is an onerous one. Linking text with tags, hypertext and search functions allow relationships between readers and text. Organizing knowledge to be easily accessible and at the same time to prevent obscurity, is an arduous task which is laden with barriers. Is it a realistic goal to bundle all knowledge in one place? Only Google has the answer.


Bolter, D. (2001). Writing space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print [2nd edition]. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Kelly, K. (May 2006). Scan this Book. The New York Times.

O’Donnel, J. (n.d.). The Virtual Library: An Idea Whose Time Has Passed. Retrieved from

November 15, 2009   1 Comment

A Reaction to: ‘A Vision of Students Today’


It has become fairly common in education circles to discuss the effect that computers, the internet and a myriad of electronic ‘gadgets’ has had on education and on students.  As a teacher the change that these technologies has brought is evident every day.  No longer do students need to spend the time searching through books or journals, now with a few clicks Google can instantly deliver any information they need.  The speed of delivery of information has proved to be a boon for research but the new technologies may also be contributing to a serious problem. This paper will look at the video and article, ‘A Vision of Students Today’ and examine how the video can be seen as symptomatic of this problem, the effect that instant answers and instant information is having on students’ ability to think and to concentrate.

In the video Wesch tries to show us what his students are thinking and doing both inside and outside the classroom. The video attempts to illustrate that the traditional classroom, whether in university or grade school, is no longer relevant to the ‘wired’ generation. Near the end of the video a student holds up a sign that says, ‘I did not create the problems, but they are my problems’. Watching the video one wonders what problems she is referring to; the ample evidence of a very limited attention span in some of her classmates? Students who play on their computer or listen to an IPod while someone is lecturing? Students who are more interested in Facebook or their cell phones than their classes?  While for many viewers the video causes a reaction of anger directed towards the students, Wesch appears to be trying to relieve these students of any responsibility for their actions.  Despite all the evidence to the contrary he would like us to believe that these are bright, enthusiastic students who are being held back by ‘the system’.  Wesch appears to believe that this is backed up by the students’ claim that they ‘hate school, but love learning’. Just prior to telling us about his students’ love of learning he tells us some of the things his students have learned; that they can get by without studying, taking notes, reading the textbook or going to class.  I agree with the student in the video, there is a problem here and I agree with Wesch that technology may be at the center of it.  But rather than looking deeper at what the problem might be and how technology is affecting students, Wesch chooses to believe that it is the presence,  and his students’ knowledge of technology that is the root of the problem.  He doesn’t look at the bigger problem of how technology may be causing a change in the mental processes of his students.  This is the question that must be asked about the video, has  the new technology changed students so much that they are now being held back by the traditional classroom experience, or has the instant answers and instant gratification they experience through their various electronics made students unable to concentrate or hold their attention for any length of time?  This is a question that is becoming increasingly discussed.

In 2008 BBC published an article titled, “Is computer use changing children?”  The article discusses the work of Baroness Greenfield, a neuroscientist and director of the Royal Institute. In the article she poses the question, “could the sensory-laden environment of computers result in people staying in the world of the small child?” (Settle, 2008)  She further wonders, “could it be if a small child is sitting in front of a screen pressing buttons and getting reactions quickly for many hours, they get used to and their brains get used to rapid responses?” (Settle, 2008)   In another article, also published in 2008 in Atlantic, Nicholas Car asks the question “Is Google making us Stupid?” He talks of his own experience with the wired world and how it is affecting him, “And what the net seems to be doing is chipping away my capacity for concentration and contemplation. My mind now expects to take in information the way the net distributes it: in a swift moving stream of particles”. (Car, 2008)  Further to this are a number of books that have been published recently dealing with the same theme;  iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind, or,  The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes our Future,  or,  Distracted: The Erosion of  Attention and the Coming Dark Age.  Clearly the effect of technology on attention span is being seen as a serious issue.

For teachers, many of whom did not grow up with computers and would not consider themselves ‘wired’ the situation that these writers describe is disturbing. If technology is creating in students a need for rapid responses and is changing their ability to concentrate how will it affect the future of education?  Wesch admits that, “At times I feel desperate for their attention.  I rush to amuse them with jokes and stories as I swing, twist, and swirl that gyro mouse…hoping to dazzle them with a multi-media extravaganza”. (A Vision of Students Today (and What Teachers Must Do), 2008)   It has become common to hear how teachers are moving  from being the ‘sage’ to the ‘guide’, but it appears now that we will need to become entertainers. Some of the problem may be solved as wired students become wired teachers, but of the larger problem, the possibility that technology is effecting attention span and concentration there is no easy solution.  Technology is too much a part of our society and far too useful for peoples’ acceptance of it to change because of a possible side effect.  Teachers will need to change their focus from teaching and passing information to helping students develop skills in critical thinking.  We can assume that information is available and easily retrievable, our job will be to help them learn how to judge and separate the useful and relevant from the useless and irrelevant.

A Vision of Students Today (and What Teachers Must Do). (2008, October). Retrieved October 2009, from Encyclopaedia Britannica Blog:

Car, N. (2008, July / August). Is Google Making Us Stupid? Retrieved October 2009, from Atlantic:

Settle, M. (2008, August 15). Is Computer Use Changing Children? Retrieved October 2009, from BBC:

November 15, 2009   1 Comment

Commentary 2- Mechanization: before and after

Ancient and modern writing are technologies in the sense that they are methods for arranging verbal ideas in a visual space. (Bolter, 2001, pg. 15)

 In my previous commentary, I attempted to talk about the impact of writing as a technology on humans’ development. This second commentary, I’d like to reflect on the transition of writing to writing as a mechanized process and its impact on the way we relate to text.

            Writing, as we have read and discussed in this course, has significantly changed over time due to the necessities and complementary technologies man has created or adapted.

Scroll and papyrus

The scroll and papyrus are the precursors of books as we know today. These “portable” versions of text were the first attempts to make writing and reading a more accessible technology. During this “era”, writing was considered an art form, due to its complexity in elaboration and reproduction, as well as because of the techniques and methods used. These text versions allowed the delivery of information or text in an uninterrupted sequence, which printed books still maintain.

Hand crafted books to manual scripts

Production and reproduction of texts during this and previous eras was done only by those who were fully trained and skilled in writing and reproducing typographies. Writing a book or text and reproducing it took a lot of time, effort and people, resulting in the high cost of texts and low distribution rates; making them practically inaccessible to the general public.

            Migrating from a scrolled text to the bounded pages format, allowed the reader to easily flip through the pages to advance or return to a specific point of the reading. Although initial books were large in size and required to be laid on a high surface to read (table, desk, reading podium, etc.), this new format freed the reader’s hands to be able to write and read simultaneously. This new format also facilitated the production and reproduction of texts, allowing the writer to add ideas in between pages or correct mistakes within a single page. Bounded pages resulted in the need to organize or categorize content within the text, giving way to page numbering and table of contents or index.

The printed book

As writing progressed, the letter press was introduced in the fifteenth century, which allowed word duplication en masse (Bolter, 2001, pg. 14); then came the typography which became the first product in which text could be repeated by a machine. The printing press later became an effective “upgrade” of the letter press and typography, allowing production and reproduction of several pages in a shorter period of time. These rapid and rather radical changes in writing allowed the entire process to be mechanized, automated or “machine-produced” which, as a consequence, facilitated reproduction, reduced costs and man-made mistakes greatly.

            The printed book facilitated reading due to the typography and format used. Since printed books were smaller in size, the reader could easily transport the text. This shift in format made the book accessible to different publics and also allowed a certain sense of ownership of the reader for the book- making margin notes, highlighting or underlining, etc.

The electronic book

The electronic book (E-book) format has been around for about a decade now, but has not been fully adopted as a “mainstream” book format. Commercial E-books initially began as an alternative reading format for printed books, promoting ecological and economical “savings” as their main advantage. Currently, there are many books in electronic format which can be read on a computer screen or special electronic portable devices. According to Freda Turner (2005), “E-books have an advantage over traditional books in that they offer hypertext linking, search features, and connections to other online databases enhancing data comprehension.” Turner mentions that the current lifestyle “requires” information or texts to be interactive and convenient, allowing the reader to jump between topics and ideas, as well as to easily transport a library in a small electronic device.

A shift in the way we relate to text

Before the mechanization of writing and commercial distribution of texts, the relationship between the reader and the text was impersonal and somewhat complicated. The reader could not (or with difficulty) transport the text or have access to texts as freely and easily as today. Before mechanization, reading was usually done on foot and at select spaces, such as libraries, that could afford having a copy of the text. Manually-elaborated texts imposed certain authority over the reader due to high cost, inaccessibility, etc. impeding him to adopt and adapt the text to his necessities. As writing transformed, the reader took certain “ownership” over texts by making marks, comments and easily transporting or sharing the text in different places.

            Electronic text has not only modified the way we read, but also the way we share, write and reproduce text. Electronic readers can manipulate or tailor some texts to their needs or add direct comments to for others to see as well (Bolter, 2001, pg. 11). Both “traditional” and electronic texts encourage the development of different abilities and skills for readers and writers. Some of these competencies are: creative, critical, and associative thinking; organization of ideas and thoughts, as well as the materialization of abstractness. Regarding the production of texts, the digital or electronic era has also allowed different “authors” to cooperate or write a single text without time or geographical limitations. Nowadays, the reader can easily adopt (download, browse, consult) and adapt (edit, highlight, review) texts to tailor specific needs; resulting in a closer, more personal relation with text.

            Several authors, including Turner (2005) have stated that printed texts will become obsolete in a certain point in time. It is my belief, reinforced with discussions made within the course, that electronic books will complement printed texts, not necessarily take-over them. What both digital and printed versions of text have in common is a mechanization process or technical skill of some sort that is required in order to create the final product- the difference relies on the format and form, rather than the substance. The most important aspect to consider, in terms of text and the mechanization of its elaboration process is how the reader and writer relate to it and are able to manipulate and make it their own.



Beck, N., & Fetherston, T, (2003). The effects of incorporating a word processor into a year three writing program. Information Technology in Childhood Education Annual, 139-161.   

Ong, W. (2008) Orality and Literacy. The technologizing of the word. Routledge

Turner, Freda. (November, 2005) Incorporating Digital E-books into Educational Curriculum. International Journal of Instructional Technology and Distance Learning, No. 11, Vol. 2, Pg. 47-52. (PDF File)

November 15, 2009   1 Comment