The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing

Category — Commentary 2


“…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

Original Hypertext System

The current electronic literary structure and system is widely used. Because of its ease in accessibility and transferability, students, researchers and scholars rely heavily on e-documents for research. However, the present day system is limiting especially for knowledge workers. In the article “Xanalogical structure, needed now more than ever: Parallel documents, deep links to content, deep versioning and deep re-use” Theodore Nelson offers the Xanadu Project as an alternative that would maximize the advantages and minimize the disadvantages of the electronic document system.

Nelson describes the Xanadu Project as “an alternative paradigm for a computer universe, with its own alternative history of the computer field and alternative ideas of media, computer life and the nature of connections” (Nelson, 1999) and it is the original hypertext project; [however] it is often misunderstood as an attempt to create the World Wide Web” (Nelson, 1999). The Xanadu Model is more advanced than the world wide web in fact the world wide web was what Nelson was trying to prevent (Nelson, 1999).

In comparison to Nelson’s ambitious xanalogical model, the current electronic literary system operates on many flaws and implications that prevent users from making full use of the global internet system. Today’s e-document is simply an electronic version of the original document and nothing more. Even though the document is viewed online it does not offer any additional features that would enable further reading and understanding of the subject. As a result, the level of connectivity is low. As Paul Delany notes in “Hypermedia and literary studies” the “first essential capability of a good electronic document system is to provide a means of promoting the connection of ideas and the communication between individual scholars. The capabilities can be conceived of as a set of tools for creating a hypertext structure or the underlying framework of all electronic document systems developed” (Delany, 1995). In addition to the limitations, the electronic literary system fails to provide adequate information of related materials and resources used. Nelson believes “serious electronic literature (for scholarship, detailed controversy and detailed collaboration) must support bidirectional and profuse links, which cannot be embedded; and must offer facilities for easily tracking re-use on a principled basis among versions and quotations” (Nelson, 1999).

Nelson’s solution to these implications is by creating a parallel universe which begins with a basic interface model of parallel visualization. Parallel visualization is viewing documents side by side simultaneously as a result creating a web of information. This model will enable knowledge workers to have access to original documents and other related resources all at the same time. Furthermore, the origins of quotations will appear along with the electronic document. This is the result of establishing a permanent link between resources. Nelson also proposed a “valid copyright system … for frictionless, non-negotiated quotation at any time and in any amount” (Nelson, 1999). This will encourage more electronic publications for authors will be credited for their work.

Nelson’s xanalogical structure is practical than today’s one way hypertext structure. Critics such as Gary Wolf commented on Nelson’s model in his article entitled “ The Curse of Xanadu” where Wolf said the Xanadu Project “ was the most radical computer dream of the hacker era. Ted Nelson’s Xanadu project was supposed to be the universal, democratic hypertext library that would help human life evolve into an entirely new form” (Wolf, 1995). The Xanadu model would not only raise the standards of text representation but also transform the way of thinking and learning. Despite these advantages the Xanadu project was unsuccessful. Wolf notes that “the fact that Nelson has had only since about 1960 to build his reputation as the king of unsuccessful software development makes Xanadu interesting for another reason: the project’s failure (or, viewed more optimistically, its long-delayed success) coincides almost exactly with the birth of hacker culture. Xanadu’s manic and highly publicized swerves from triumph to bankruptcy show a side of hackerdom that is as important, perhaps, as tales of billion-dollar companies born in garages” (Wolf, 1995).

Nelson’s Xanadu Project struggles to achieve success against the widely used electronic literary system. In the forty years of development, Xanadu is still in its initial planning stage. Despite Nelson’s lack of success, the Xanadu Project received a great deal of attention and it continues to inspire numerous other software programs. The Xanadu model is built with knowledge workers in mind. This model strives to improve the uni-directional system and transform the ways people interact with electronic documents.


Delany, Paul. (1995). “Hypermedia and literary studies.”

Nelson, Theodore. (1999). “Xanalogical structure, needed now more than ever: Parallel documents, deep links to content, deep versioning and deep re-use.” Retrieved November 14, 2009.

Wolf, Gary. (1995). “The Curse of Xanadu” <> Retrieved November 13, 2009.

November 22, 2009   1 Comment

[R]evolution of Communication

New technology alters the structure of our interests: the things we think about.  They alter the character of our symbols: the things we think with.  And they alter the nature of community: the arena in which thoughts develop. (Postman, 1992, p.20)

Walter Ong in his acclaimed book, Orality and Literacy, posits that “more than any other single invention, writing has transformed human consciousness” (1982, p.77).  Writing has also transformed the way in which people connect with each other.  In an oral culture, communication was limited to what an individual could witness first hand or what they heard via another medium (clergy, messengers, etc.).  As the technology of writing developed, books, letters and telegraphs further evolved how people communicated with each other and allowed people to communicate with a broader audience.  This paper contends that there has been a revolution of communication as digital technologies have altered the way in which people communicate.  The question remains – Is digital technology creating connections or digitally dividing us? 

The Internet, and particularly Web 2.0, has altered our ability to refute written text.  In an oral culture, people had the opportunity to directly discuss (or disagree) with a message as the message and the source were one (Ong).  Ong argues that there is “no way to directly refute a text” (p.78).  Written work has had a long history of “stability and authority” and the average person was not given the power to question it (Bolter, 2001).  As writing evolved to include letters and newspaper, people could write editorials (that may or may not be published) to voice their opinions.  Web 2.0 has altered the landscape for personal expression and opened up communication.  Dobson and Willinsky agree that digital literacy is allowing people to “speak out and make one’s views widely available” (2009, p.1).  Even the terminology used has changed; books have readers, whereby websites have visitors (Kress, 2001).  A visitor can instantly comment on a story and share that with friends, family or the World Wide Web.  Take for example, CNN’s website, whereby at the end of each story, visitors are given the option of Mixx, Facebook, Twitter, Share, Email, Save and Print (CNN).  CNN also allows visitors to instantly comment on all stories posted.  Writing opened up communication lines and Web 2.0 further breaks down institutional barriers and allows individual voices to be heard. 

Ong comments, “A chirographic (writing) culture and even more so a typographic (print) culture can distance and in a way denature even the human, itemizing such as the names of leaders and political divisions in an abstract” (p. 42).  In an oral situation people are more guarded with their opinions as not to offend others.  When speaking, the audience is present and the speaker has to express their thoughts succinctly and timely.  On the other hand, writing puts a distance to what is being said both in terms of time and space.  A writer has time to reflect and revise their work.  Digital technology has created a new medium that allows written text to be more instantaneous like oral dialogue.  In UBC’s MET program, the students had a written discussion about the differences between an email message and a phone conversation and Clare Roche (2009) wrote, “if we are imagining that someone is reading our words, it is usually because we know that our written words can be kept and may be used as evidence against us”.  Laurie Trepanier (2009) commented that “email dehumanizes events and some people use it as an escape from having to do the dirty work”.  What people write and what people say are often very different. 

According to Ong, in an oral culture, people speak to be heard and unity is created when a speaker addresses an audience.  Ong argues that print isolates and is not written for any particular group.  Postman also believes that in a classroom orality leads to cooperation where as print emphasises individualized learning and competition.  The evolution of the World Wide Web to include Web 2.0 technology like blogs, social book marking, and wiki’s is altering that perception of text; Alexander comments that “an entire genre of Web services has emerged solely for connecting people to each other based on their interests and personality” (2008, p.152).  The goal of many social software applications is to create openness, collaboration and a community – very much the same as orality.  The Web also allows the audience to be global as it is not bound by location.  UBC’s Master of Educational Technology prides its self on being an internationally recognized program that is offered fully online and taken by students from thirty different countries (MET, 2009).  Jerry Bleecker comments, “When a document begins in BC, is refined in China, polished in Ontario, proofed in Japan, and submitted from New York, you know you’ve been part of a truly global learning experience” (MET).

In 1982, when Ong wrote his book, the World Wide Web was in its infancy and Web 2.0 was not yet on the horizon.  Web 2.0 and digital technology has evolved to incorporate many of the attributes that oral cultures appreciate: a sense of openness and community.  Digital technology is not without its pitfalls, but it gives the individual power to refute and let their voices be heard.  The line is already blurred between oral dialogue and written correspondence with instant messaging and texting and it will be interesting to watch as communication patterns continue to evolve and improve.  Digital technology holds the power to create connections between people.  These connections are different than that of a traditional oral culture, but strong communication channels and a sense of community can still be built.




Alexander, B. (2006). Web 2.0 and emergent multiliteracies. Educase Review, 4(1), p. 34-44.

Bolter, J. (2001).  Writing spaces: computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print.  Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Eribaum.

CNN. (2009). Retrieved November 19, 2009 from

Dobson T, Willinsky J. Digital Literacy. In: Olson D, Torrance N, editors. Cambridge Handbook on Literacy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press; 2009.

MET website. (2009).  Retrieved November 19, 2009 from

Ong, Walter. (1982.) Orality and literacy: The technologizing of the word. London: Methuen.

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

Roche, C. (2009). Orality and Literacy [ETEC 540 class discussion]. Retrieved from e-Learning @ UBC website:

Trepanier, L. (2009). ). Orality and Literacy [ETEC 540 class discussion]. Retrieved from e-Learning @ UBC website:

November 19, 2009   2 Comments

Electronic books: Not yet the remediation of print

There is no question but that electronic structures are changing our views about the way knowledge is ordered and utilized, however those changes are more nuanced than many digital enthusiasts, to borrow Bolter’s (2001) term, have allowed.  Yet as more electronic books have become available on more platforms (laptops, cell phones, PDAs and dedicated e-book readers), there has been no mass exodus from print.  Writing about the excessive optimism that accompanied the introduction of e-books, Hawkins (2002) notes simply that: “Most people don’t like to read from a screen, and it will be extremely difficult to change that perception” (p. 44).  We are clearly in a transitional stage in the evolution of the e-book, and even its relation to the printed codex that preceded it is up for debate.  Anderson-Inman and Horney (1997) argue that in order to be considered an e-book “the software must adopt the metaphor of a book in some significant way” (p. 486), including such things as the use of bookmarks, tables of contents, references to screens as ‘pages’ and functionality that allows the addition of ‘margin notes.’  Writing just four years later, Bolter argues “…the metaphor of the book is now moribund” (Bolter, 2001, p. 98).  He suggests that the affordances of the Internet allow us to move beyond the book to a new metaphor shaped by digital technologies.  Teacher-librarians, charged with instructing students in how to access information and literature in the most efficient and enjoyable ways possible, have embraced the use of e-books in schools.  What has become apparent is that e-book technologies, as Bolter (2001) suggests, have had an additive effect rather than entirely remediating print.  The focused linearity of print is a quality still valued by many readers, particularly for fiction, while the internal and external linkages afforded by hypertext are useful when the goal is information gathering.  Bolter (2001) argues that in “…late age of print … the circle and the line are equally at home” (p. 88), but limitations of existing e-book technologies still prove an obstacle.
Latest Sony e-book reader

Sony Reader Daily Edition

The cost of digital alternatives has been a factor in their adoption.  E-books read using a home computer are cost effective since few people in developed countries do not already own a PC capable of running the required software.  However, the initial cost of purchasing a dedicated e-book reader, particularly for fiction, is still prohibitive.  There are also lingering issues of  portability, readability and battery life, though these are certain to be addressed over time.  For non-fiction materials, particularly encyclopedias and reference works, however, portability works to the advantage of e-books and uptake has been faster and more enthusiastic.  High school students are content to use electronic versions of reference works that are, in print form, typically larger, heavier, and available for shorter loan periods than other types of materials.  And, in addition to 24/7 availability online, electronic reference books offer the advantages inherent in most digitized material: “Specifically, electronic documents are usually searchable, modifiable, and ‘enhanceable.’ ” (Anderson-Inman & Horney, 1997, p. 487).  At the post-secondary level, where students purchase their books, electronic texts are popular with a majority of students for many of the same reasons (Hawkins, 2002, p. 45).  “As with any remediation, however, the eBook must promise something more than the form it remediates: it must offer what can be construed as a more immediate, complete, or authentic experience for the reader” (Bolter, 2001, p. 80).  Again, to date, this is most true for reference works and most notable for encyclopedias.

World Book online student

World Book online Student

Bolter devotes some time to discussion of CD-ROM and DVD encyclopedias, but at this writing, they have been almost entirely eclipsed by their online versions.  Bolter, published in 2001, could not have foreseen the phenomenal success of Wikipedia, the wiki-based encyclopedia edited by tens of thousands of Internet volunteers from around the globe, which started the year his book was printed.  DVD-based encyclopedias were, in retrospect, a stepping-stone from print to online versions.  They introduced search capability, hyperlinks and multimedia: “…excellent examples of the ways in which hypertext and hypermedia remediate print” (Bolter, 2001, 88).  They are, however, limited by network restrictions (speed, bandwidth, user limits), and they suffer from the same limitation as their print counterparts:  DVD encyclopedias are usually updated once a year.  What they did allow was time for the technology of the Internet to mature, for networks and ISPs to become more stable and reliable, and for high-speed connections to become commonplace in developed nations.  The major traditional commercial encyclopedias including Britannica ( Nov. 12, 2009) and World Book ( Nov. 12, 2009), still offer print and DVD editions, but they also offer subscription-based online versions that are continually updated with new hyperlinks, new media, and new articles.  Some, such as Britannica and World Book, also incorporate Web 2.0 interactive elements including the Britannica blogs and YouTube-like video.  Britannica features a section called Advocacy for Animals.  Both encyclopedias incorporate popular Web 2.0 design elements making their sites look more like interactive websites than search engines.  Bolter did accurately foresee that: “These online editions of the great book add to their claim of immediacy by connecting their user to cyberspace, which is itself already construed as a vast encyclopedia” (Bolter, 2001, p. 89).  Perhaps more interesting still are websites that not only encourage interactivity with readers, but also depend upon it.

Fanfiction.Net ( Nov. 11, 2009) employs attributes of Web 2.0 popular with teenage readers.  Fanfiction, as the name suggests, is a site that allows users to write chapters and scenes based on their favourite works (novels, plays, movies and television shows), and publish them to thousands of readers.  Readers can browse these user creations by category and read them online as long as they have a computer with an Internet connection or access to one in a school or public library.  The fan compositions reflect the interests and preoccupations of the time, and reach a wide audience through Internet publication facilitated by categorization, searchability and interactivity (ratings and reviews).  Forums and communities allow readers and writers to discuss their works, the shows and books on which they are based and a wide range of related topics.  English, literature and creative writing teachers would do well to co-opt the enthusiasm for this type of interaction with popular culture to encourage students to write for a much wider audience than that available in the classroom or the school.  Interestingly, while Fanfiction incorporates many Web 2.0 affordances, it is also still linked strongly to the metaphor of the codex.  Hawkins (2002) sums up the current situation well: “E-books will survive, but not in the consumer market—at least not until reading devices become much cheaper and much better in quality ….  The e-book revolution has therefore become more of an evolution.” (p.48).


Anderson-Inman, L. & Horney, M. (1997). Electronic books for secondary students.  Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 40 (6), 486-491.

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

Hawkins, D. T. (2002). Electronic Books: Reports of their death have been exaggerated. Online, 26(4), 42.

November 17, 2009   2 Comments

Commentary #2 Literacies and Information Architecture

Mandala Making Activity——-

—–As a preface activity to the commentary I would like to invite classmates to review an online example, or generate their own Mandala of Muliliteracy as a way to conceptualize the organization of each individual’s concepts. Feel free to peruse the communication course website and check out a sampling of other ones on the site.

The Dobson and Willinsky article provides a broad scan of the many meanings of digital literacy, for which they consider technological literacy to be a synonym (p 15, 2009). The paper asks us to focus also on the impact that digital literacy will have socio-culturally. This article served as a springboard to explore the theme here that information architecture skills are integral to successful learning.  This would correlate with a structural meaning-making context, after Cope & Kalantzis (p 11, 2009)

The authors make the distinction between traditional literacy and new literacy—they encourage us to view literacy as a social practice, not an individual skill (page 15, 2009). Digital literacy is a presented as a subset of information literacy. The 1989 definition of information literacy (page 18, 2009)  cited from the American Library Association is as follows “To be information literate, a person must be able to recognize when information is needed, and have the ability to locate, evaluate, and use effectively the needed information”. Learning to learn is a saying often applied to describe general information literacy.

 Matthews-DeNatale (2009) believes “There are at least three pieces to the puzzle. One piece is information technology fluency, one is information literacy, and another piece is media literacy. And they’re all overlapping, like a Venn diagram.” Information management is a part of multiliteracy skills, and will be the focus of this report.

Dobson and WIllinsky also cite earlier work (p 16, 2009) by Dobson (2005) in which he proposes “Digital literacy, therefore, assumes visual literacy and entails both the ability to comprehend what is represented and the ability to comprehend the internal logics and encoding schemes of that representation”.  This definition implies that one needs to understand the structure behind the information directly accessed in the media, and so associated with every representation of “data” is metadata.

With projects such as Project Gutenberg, Million Book Project, Google and others the authors refer to (p 17, 2009) today’s student has access to millions of references, and information in multiple media around each subject they may wish to explore.

Dobson and Willinsky propose that accessing multiple nodes between the links in a highly associative environment can be disorienting to a learner (page 7, 2009). This best applies to learners transitioning from traditional learning environments, not to Digital Natives. The authors do clarify that a person with good resident domain knowledge will do better in a high network situation, as they can more easily integrate situational information from this environment with their schemata (page 8, 2009).  

 Managing information in a digital environment is changing learning both in and out of the classroom. Bookmarking has surfaced as a key way to manage large sets of links on the desktop. is a perfect example of how an individual can scaffold his or her learning by gradually building up more and deeper resources as understanding of a subject increases. This software allows sharing of bookmarks to further enhance functionality. This sort of tool is good example of the way that digital literacy skills can transform research, which used to be a singular activity, done in libraries’ book stack and index searches, into a highly social activity with potential for many people at great distance and of varying ages and cultural backgrounds to contribute to the process. According to Dede (2008) “RSS feeds, sophisticated search engines, and similar harvesting tools help individuals find the needles they care about in a huge haystack of resources”.

The authors refer to the fact that the unit of importance is now the post, not the page (page 20, 2009). This means that more threads and small packets of information must be managed now that microcontent is king. Behind microcontent is the web of user tags that add another dimension to the material. These linking tags allow pooling of learner knowledge of the data, by the process of cumulative novel associations.

The old way of filing and accessing material was hierarchical and taxonomic. Current information management in multiliterate learners often revolves around folksonomy (Neil, after Vander Wal, 2007). Folskonomy is defined on the EDUCAUSE website as the application of user-defined tags (so-called folk classifications) by an open group of people to categorize units of information ([n.d]). By adding tags to visual or other data in their work, learners can make powerful associative links, and even generate tag clouds, to conceivably make new meaning over and above the data itself. Folksonomy structures such as at Digg, CiteULike and others, provide a new way to manage content. New tools allow one to make a visual representation of the metadata. Generating information architecture over and above the base information is a widespread user-generated experience for the first time in history.

 The ability to customize the desktop and files within a personal digital appliance is another way that information literacy skills can enhance learning. Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) provide powerful information structuring, which provides opportunity for deeply customized user-directed learning.   PLEs can provide a way for the user to select only those modes of learning and manage information as is best suited to their learning style(s).

Informal learning environments such as games such as SimCity, and social networks (Flickr, Facebook, YouTube) also provide a new way to make meaning by providing situated learning and constructivist experiences. By accessing a path to a level of information which is appropriately in the zone of the student’s development, the comfort of the learner will be enhanced. On YouthVoices for example, young learners share their media together and have online discussions around those materials in a comfortable self-selected sharing environment.

Dobson and Willinsky acknowledge the challenges facing today’s learners when they say “And there are very real issues around too much information, in the form of inundated mailboxes clogged with spam and a World Wide Web that can seem at times overwhelmingly wide, if less than very deep”. (p 22, 2009). If educators are cognizant of the power of information architecture as a component of multiliteracy, then optimizing teaching around this strategy will help the learner focus effectively on both their individual and collaborative learning.

Unorthodox and novel strategies will continue to evolve as software evolves. Google Wave is a high priority research tool for that company because it integrates many multiliteracy tools in one place for streamlined sharing and organizing of information. This is an excellent example of how tools are evolving quickly to come to the aid of web 2.0 users in integration of information architecture.  Draude (2009) feels educators should answer the question “Maybe we should look at how to help a student figure out what is the priority information—not what information does the student have to know, but what information can the student go find that will supplement what he or she knows?  Dobson and Willinsky (2009) cite a similar theme from a 1989 work by  Lemeke regarding students learning independently, using metamedia and information literacy; they quote Lemeke saying”…places the emphasis on “access to information, rather than the imposition of learning”. Draude and Lemeke’s statements certainly represent a new appreciation of just how important information architecture is.


Cope, B. & Kalantzis, M. (2009) ‘Multiliteracies’: New literacies, new learning. e-published March 17, 2009;  Accessed online November 5, 2009 at:

Dede, C. (2008). A seismic shift in epistemology. EDUCAUSE REVIEW, Vol. 43, No. 3. Pp 80-81. Accesssed online November 15, 2009 at:

Dobson, T., Willinsky, J. (2009). Digital literacy. Cambridge Handbook on Literacy. Accessed online at:

EDUCAUSE. Folksonomies [n.d]. Accessed online November 15th at:

Neal, D. (2007). Folksonomies and Image Tagging: Seeing the Future? ASIS&T Bulletin. Accessed November 15, 2009 online at:

 Schaeffer, S., Fry, M., Droude, B., Matthews-DeNatale, G. (2009) Information literacy and IT fluency. EDUCAUSE REVIEW Vol. 44, No. 3 pp 8-9. EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) Annual Conference podcast at: <>.Under Creative Commons License3.0

Websites Referred to:

Youth Voices






Google Wave

November 16, 2009   1 Comment

Heavy Heroes: More than just memorable

The Cultural and Psychological Roles of Heroic ‘Heavy’ figures and of the Bizarre in Ancient Mythology: More than just memorable
Walter Ong asserts, in his discussion [pp 69 -71] that the heroic tradition [meaning the great works of Homer (the Iliad, the Odyssey et al)] and the great pantheon of gods of ancient mythology, specifically that of the Greeks, was an outcome of the inherent characteristics of “primary” oral culture and of early literate culture. According to this interpretation of the attributes of oral culture, oral residues include a necessary structural mnemonic component in terms of what is included in works of poetry and literature. Ong states that these works include what he has termed “…type figures, wise Nestor, furious Achilles, clever Odysseys….” that is, that these figures constitute typologies. (Ong, 2000 pp 69). It will be shown in this discussion that, these ancient works do indeed present specific “types” but that their appearance function primarily as expressions of cultural values and psychological types, which has very little to do with mnemonics.
A culture of War [1]
It will be shown that these stories arose out of an evolutionary meshing of critical points of juncture, framing a “space” where personal & psychological history and cultural values and mythology complexly intersect. It will be demonstrated that it is not the needs of an orality based culture but the language of the Unconscious and the needs of a military based culture, that provided the impetus for the creation of the bizarre psychological types and “heavy” dramas that are portrayed in these works.
More than just a clever ruse: An ancient psychodrama [2]
The connection between psychoanalytic theory [especially Freudian and Jungian] and literature [especially ancient classical mythology] is intimate and complex, indeed among the honours Freud received in his lifetime, was the prestigious Goethe Prize for Literature (Nelson, 1963). In Freudian psychology, many of the fundamental concepts, [for example parapraxis, dreams, symptoms] have direct analogies within literary theory. Specific psychoanalytic constructs constitute a sort of involuntary language, with its own laws and logic, which serve to define and describe the operation and nature of the Unconscious, within the Freudian concept of the psyche [Orlando 1978].
Personality and History fuse together in Psychoanalysis [3]
Mythology and mythological analogies are fundamental and integral to the central theoretical construct of Freudian psychological theory; the Oedipus Complex, which is based upon Sophocles Oedipus Tyrannus {Morford & Lenardon, 1991]. It would be dismissive of the entire field of psycho-analysis [and of much “talk therapy”] to conclude that the roots of the frequently bizarre and strange characters from these ancient stories is driven by the need to make them memorable in the sense of easier to recall, rather than by a fusion of complex psychological and cultural values, needs and characteristics.
It has been suggested that the Iliad reveals not just the attributes and characteristics of the Heroes and the gods of the mythological world but also serves to illuminate many aspects of features of Homeric and Classical Greek culture, providing insight into the ways that the Greeks viewed or perceived themselves and their society (Armstrong, 1993).
A cast of characters expressing psychological types and cultural values [4]
In terms of values or ethics, it is clear that within the mythical world of the Iliad, human beings are continually and dramatically playing out their predestined roles within specific well-constructed constraints, which are imposed upon their agency or range of actions, by the gods. Human beings are controlled by and subservient to, various levels or hierarchies of power [both divine and human] and domination.
Not surprisingly, in a world defined by graduations or degrees of tyranny [with the great warring kingdoms as political models], and within a story chiefly concerned with the consequences of war, the virtues [or passions] manifest in the Heroes of the Iliad [Achilles, Hector, Priam] are those that fit a military paradigm of ‘greatness’. Thus, martial values are asserted, among them, two extremely praised attributes are those embodied in the concepts of “Honour” and “Glory” defined within a specific set of military values and ethics [sic] of Greek military, partriarchical, tyranny based culture.
In summary, the story of the Iliad is clearly concerned with asserting the validity of the ‘honour culture’, which the Greeks held in such high esteem though the actions and examples of both gods and men. The power relationships between man and the divine are interactionist, that is, the same passions and character flaws plague both the Heroes and the deities. The gods participate in aspects of humanity and the Heroes participate in aspects of the divine in a complex and dialectical fashion. Nowhere in all of this, whether in terms of cultural values or in terms of psychological needs, does the role of mnemonics figure as having primacy.
Achilles: A Postmodernist Hero? [5]
Ong asserts the notion that mnemonics, and the needs of orality [as though it was in itself an entity] or of an oral based culture, are more important than the cultural values or psychological forces at play here. Ong states “…. all of this not to deny that other forces beside mere mnemonic serviceability produce figures and groupings….” and that “…psychoanalytic theory can explain a great many of these forces…”. Clearly, psychoanalytic theory and cultural forces explain the vast majority of factors at work, and mnemonic structure [like the well documented use of repetition of phrases and of whole scenarios] was a secondary, even minor attribute to these great works. The critical or primary function of these works was to support or validate cultural beliefs [representing specific values] and to express the language of the unconscious [through the representation of universal attributes] as it functions within the human psyche.
The importance of the universality of some of these values, the cultural specificity of others, and the deep psychological underpinnings of these characters and their behaviors, can be dismissed if taken at surface value. However, such surface interpretations can be misleading. These stories portray humans as being at the mercy of, or aided by, divine powers, with questions about mortality and morality often left unanswered. Indeed the great questions posed in stories like the Iliad are not resolved, and seemed shrouded forever in ambiguity.
For me these stories resonate well in our highly technical and highly literate society, even these thousands of years after they were passed down to us. These works are not merely bizarre stories from the past, made easier to remember because of their strange set of characters. Ambiguity itself is asserted within them [a very post modern concept] and functions as a sort of mythic signifier or semiotic sign, of those realities that constitute the significant and universal components of the human experience and of what it means to be human.
An eternal conflict plays out in the human psyche as well as the battlefield [6]

November 16, 2009   2 Comments

Commentary # 2 : Curiosity Killed the Cat !


Bolter in his book explains about devices of navigation and orientation throughout the history of writing, from the evolution of hypermedia (from ancient oral poetry) to how it is informed by critical theory and shapes writing. He considers writing spaces as spaces that include both written products and types of written production, including illuminated texts, printed books, web pages, typewriters, and word processors. He analyzes changing nature of print, and of writing spaces as they become more visual even in electronic writing, digital writing, hypertext and hypermedia. He considers that, text becomes a textual aid that brings order and unity to the images. According to Bolter hypermedia can be regarded as a kind of picture writing, which refashions the qualities of both traditional picture writing and phonetic writing (p. 58).

However, through those chapters that I have read till now, I feel a soft deterministic way of approaching to technology by Bolter. Although throughout the book and even at the preface, he tries to explain about it, but from time to time, a continuing of Ong’s technological determinism (that was discussed previously in “From Orality to Literacy”) can also be traced in Writing Space.

In general, Bolter believes that the technical and cultural aspects of writing are so closely tied together that it is impossible to separate them and they both combined the technology. He sees technology and culture as two things that influence and create each other. Bolter does not reject the benefits and advantages that technology provides, but reminds that users share equal responsibility for the achievements. In this way, he tries to distance from technological determinism.

My curiosity to find possible influences  of Ong and others on Bolter’s soft determinism, led me to search for the refernces of Writing Space at the end of the book. I was surprized when I found chapter 11, “The Web Site” just before the references. It was only one page. In that chapter, Bolter explains that a Web site, is often to provide ancillary material that the book omitted due to limitations of space or the limitations of the printed medium itself. Perhaps the main reason for having a Web site is simply to extend the reach of the text, to establish a colony in the new territory of cyberspace (p. 214). The URL address of the associated Web site of Bolter’s book is

I was so curious to have a look at it and find what Bolter considers as an extension, and a remediation, of the printed text, containing additional information, corrections, and improvements. As Bolter says “It (Web site) also remediates the printed text by making a modest claim to interactivity, in the sense that visitors to the site can register comments and criticisms, which will be recorded and made available to subsequent visitors”. However the link didn’t work. I tried it again and again but I faced with the same message, “The requested URL was not found on this server”. I searched for the server and found it to be located in Georgia Institute of Technology. Bolter’s academic homepage  is also available in that server and it works!

It was surprising for me that a writer be aware of reading his book by students in different universities and is reluctant to update the web address of his book, especially when considering web technologies as a remediation of printed text. I continued my search to find the original URL address that aimed to associate Bolter’s book. However, during my search, I was surprised by an article in Computers and Composition Journal in 2002, a year after the print of the new version of the book. In that article Barton, from the University of South Florida, stated that “the web site advertised in his (Bolter’s) last chapter was not functional at the time of this writing”. According to his harsh criticism “Perhaps this could be a reason for so many scholars preferring print. Another reason for this preference might be to achieve the notoriety that scholars like Bolter acquire when they publish books! If Bolter had produced a web page instead of a book, would I be reviewing him now in a scholarly (print) journal? I wish that Bolter had addressed these perplexing ironies” (Barton, 2002). However, I agree with Barton that such ironies can not reduce the effectiveness of Bolter’s Writing Space.

Now, in spite of Bolter’s emphasize on the dynamic and heterogeneous visual experience that the Web offers, I feel that the link of the book’s Web site has never worked for all of these years. I could imagine that by adding a website for his book, Bolter would critically analyze and show the changing structure of writing spaces by looking at the evolution of writing and spaces of writing. Bolter’s use of Web, as technology that promises the future, was a big disappointment for me.

In the recent years due to dynamic characteristic of Web, maybe Bolter has felt that it is not still necessary to defend the idea of electronic writing in practice, in the form of a Web site, as significant, since it is no longer the case. Today’s culture is far more wired and open to Web and Web-based communication that it probably be more important to try to understand the importance of Web as new writing technology in teaching and learning.

Let me finish up here with a beautiful saying from Rumi, written 800 years ago.

“Either exist as you are, or be as you look”


Barton, M. D. (2002). Book review, Computers and Composition, (2002). 499–502.

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

November 16, 2009   3 Comments

Commentary #2: The Fragmentation of Print

Bolter argues that hypertext is remediating print forms, offering a dichotomous view separating print from hypertext, separated on the basis of links and imagery and arguing the benefits of imagery will supersede print.  Will hypertext overwrite print due to inherent qualities such as flexibility and relation to natural ways of processing ideas which cross cultural and linguistic lines? The reader is forced to consider which form will become dominant, print or imagery:

“Although the writer and reader may use words to describe and interpret the pictoral message, two readers of different languages could share the same system of picture writing.”  (Bolter, 2001, 59)

While he questions the effectiveness of voiceless picture writing on its own, he purports that through hypermedia we realize “a kind of picture writing, which refashions the qualities of both traditional picture writing and phonetic writing.” (58)  

Bolter argues that hypermedia and eBooks offer increased flexibility to printed books in that they do not align themselves end to end on a shelf, rather “merging into the network of the World Wide Web, the electronic book invite exploration as part of a network of texts.” (81)  Bolter asserts that books must be complete units in themselves, and despite their physical proximity to other books, they become completely separate once placed on a library shelf.  While the idea of linking books, texts and images is interesting I question the value of this approach for all types of literature. 

The issue Bolter has failed to address to this point is the reasonable applicability of image and link based hypermedia to all forms of text.  Hypertext emulates magazines and newspapers in its marriage of images to text, offering unparalleled means to further exploration of ideas and concepts through linking nodes of information that allow the reader to follow paths of links through endless pages on the World Wide Web.  In encyclopedic form, hypertext offers a flexibility for the reader to explore subjects according to personal interest and in relatively effortless ways as were required in former volume-based, shelved books while images allow readers to appreciate context with less apparent description.  This form of hypertext, however, is not necessarily the ultimate solution to all forms of text.  Qualitatively, the text offered in such forms as magazines, newspapers, and encyclopedias differs greatly from that of prose text found in fiction.

Focusing on hypertext, this form does offer increased reader control through their organization of ideas “that can arrange themselves into a kaleidoscope of hierarchical and associative patterns-each pattern meeting the needs of one class of readers on one occasion,” (Bolter, 2001, 91) this encyclopedic example ignores the needs inherent to the narrative form.  Current novels are written in a linear and arguably male organization of linear storylines, building tension, climax and denouement.  The novel form favours author centred and directed, linear exploration of print while hypertext offers reader centred, open, non-linear exploration of links which span infinite pages and represent a multitude of variations of ways to explore the same available material.

Does hypertext, which indeed offers possibilities for certain forms of text that seem to represent an extension of inherent qualities of the texts themselves, offer the best solution for all texts?  The narrative form favours a closed author centred approach to reading and exploring text.  Would hypertext, despite all its possibilities, fit in with the demands of the narrative form?  Readers explore such texts as novels by following the direction of the author.  Rather than viewing this as a negative aspect of linear based fiction, it seems more reasonable to appreciate the unique forms and qualities of various texts which arguably determine their effectiveness in various forms of textual representation.  In the 1980’s hypertext-like narratives emerged (Moulthrop, 1995), such as the Choose Your Own Adventure novels for youth which made their debut at this time.  This type of book offered a hypertext-like situation where the reader navigated through the narrative by deciding on the course of action for plot and then turning to the appropriate page in the book to pursue the decided upon storyline.  Despite this exciting innovation in reading, the Choose Your Own Adventure hypertext-like approach to reader centred fiction did not replace traditional novel forms.

If we use this example to compare such forms as magazines and newspapers, encyclopedias and novels in the advent of hypertext, we could argue that before the advent of hypertext possibilities, the simulated hypertext forms of the encyclopedia and hypertext and image based forms of the magazine and newspaper existed independent of computer based hypertext and imagery.  While computer based hypertext allows the inherent qualities of these forms to become stronger, the form reduces the importance of authorship in the important form of fiction and the novel.  Who is to be in control of the text?  Do the readers control all forms of text, including story lines?  And how would this play out?  As readers, would we accept stories that we decided on our own, through creating outcomes and producing a fragmenting of literary outcomes in a myriad of possible storyline directions?  Stuart Moulthrop suggests that such reader directed programs violate “our sense of commitment, at least to the extent that this is denied in terms of…’selfish interaction,’ or an assumption that the story really does exist to please us.” (73)  Hypertext writing seems to change the act of writing in that it forces writers to envision and created a multitude of possibilities in accordance with the demands of the readers.  The novel form then becomes “a textual space within which his fiction operates… [whereby] the reader joins in actively constructing the text by selecting a particular order of episodes at the time of reading.” (42)  Despite the fact that the author still controls the text that is read, the text is only secondary to the choices made by the reader. 

In terms of imagery, while images can carry meaning beyond descriptive possibilities, can this strength inherent to images overwrite the text in narrative?  Bolter suggests that “[b]y combining alphabetic writing with images and diagrams… designers are defining the computer as a writing space that vacillates between intuitive and abstract modes of representation….where the verbal text must…compete for the reader’s attention with a variety of pictoral elements.” (Bolter, 2001, 61)  While he admits this utilization of images falls in line with the particular material, it is important to question the blanket idea that pictoral images could replace all writing forms which utilize pure text as a medium.  The genre of the narrative novel does not necessitate simply due to its textual makeup, inclusion in the realm of hypertext and image based alterations that will occur as a result of computer based forms.  Bolter’s use of weighted words, such as “exploited,” (73) when discussing the exclusive use of text in creating and presenting prose offers a glimpse into the negative view he carries with regards to the exclusive text mediums such as that of narrative.   

Whether or not a change from “books to electronic webs carries the force of historical necessity” as suggested by Bolter and Lanham, or will simply result in a fragmentation that will create new outlets for writing is yet to be seen.  In the introduction of literacy in the era of orality, oral forms of communication were not entirely overwritten or erased.  Both oral and literary forms continued to flourish and evolve according to benefits, possibilities and limitations of each form.  In the same way, I argue that hypermedia and traditional text forms will develop and coexist as benefits, possibilities, and limitations are determined. 

While it is impossible to accurately predict the future of either hypertext of print, it seems unnecessary to assume a total and complete overwriting of one system over another.  Traditional literary narrative forms may indeed branch off to include hypertext version, but traditional narrative forms such as the novel may be best left to the print form.  Hypermedia may allow for a permanent fragmentation of narration to include hypertext literature, whereby hypertext books will become readily available in addition to traditional print forms. Imagery may allow for increased image-based literature (such as is evident in comics), but primary utilization of images reflects a varying set of possibilities, benefits, and limitations that are not equivocal to the narrative novel form.  While film seems to be the closest we have come to realizing a shift towards pure image in narration, it is important to remember the text base of most films.  Such blockbusters as the Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or Twilight series, My Sister’s Keeper, and the Boy in the Striped Pajamas are just a few.  Just as communication branched into the areas of literacy and orality in the face of the new literacy, perhaps fiction will branch into multiple areas including, but not limited to, traditional print forms and hypertext versions in accordance with social, literary, and fiction writing demands. 


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

Bolter, J & Joyce, M  (1987)  Hypertext and creative writing.  University of North Carolina.  Accessed at:

Moulthrop, S.  (1995)  Traveling in the breakdown lane: A principle of resistance for hypertext.  Accessed at:

November 16, 2009   1 Comment

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

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

Commentary 2 – Literacy

Literacy n. 1 the ability to read and write.  2 competence is some field of knowledge, technology, etc.  (computer literacy; economic literacy)  (Oxford Canadian Dictionary, 1998, pg. 836)

Literacy has been discussed and will continue to be a topic of discussion far into the human future.   The need to learn and to facilitate learning and the economic drivers that push technology changes will impact learning and how we view and define literacy.   Ong states that “Literacy began with writing but, at a later stage of course, also involves print”.  (1982, pg. 2)  One would assume that literacy would and should develop to become multifaceted to include all information and communication techniques and the social factors that influence those modes.  As the identified by the Oxford Canadian Dictionary, literacy should imply an understanding, along with the ability to read and write. 

In the article A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies: Designing Social Futures, The New London Group presents the concept of multiliteracies – a redesigned ‘literacy’ with mutual consideration for “the multiplicity of communications channels and media, and the increasing saliency of cultural and linguistic diversity.” (1996, pg. 4)  The new globalization, with ever increasing diversity, has resulted in an encroaching on the workplace, in public spaces and in our personal lives.  These influences are driving a demand for a language “needed to make meaning” (1996, pg. 5) of our economic and cultural exchanges.   How we perceive and how others perceive us is a factor in success.  This success impacts and affects all facts of our lives.   But in a global village, can we ensure that success is attained by all.  It would appear to me that the requirement for multiliteracy is needed mostly in areas of economic disadvantage and disparity.  Where access to even “mere literacy” (New London Group, pg. 4) is limited. 

Cross-cultural communications and the negotiated dialogue of different languages and discourses can be a basis for worker participation, access, and creativity, for the formation of locally sensitive and globally extensive networks that closely relate organizations to their clients or suppliers, and structures of motivation in which people feel that there different backgrounds and experiences are genuinely valued.  (New London Group, 1996, pg. 7)

To increase cross-cultural experiences within the workers’ education, the use of facilitated online study circles are excellent venues to create a dialogue for success and facilitate the “making of meaning” in workers’ participation.  The International Federation of Workers’ Education Associations (IFWEA) employs study circles to attempt to close the gap in both worker education and multiliteracy in disadvantaged groups.  These educational events provide an opportunity for Study Circle members to engage in the four elements of pedagogy as described including: Situated Practice; Overt Instruction; Critical Framing; and Transformed Practice.  (New London Group, pg. 5) 

The division of pedagogy into “the how”, places a new role and responsibility on the teacher and the school.  In the articles, the teacher is described as a facilitator of cultural differences, and a developer of critical thinkers.  This individual must navigate not only the knowledge of required instructional content, but also the technical and the cultural.   The school, as the organization tasked to make differences out of homogeneity (The New London Group, pg. 11) must now reconfigure the classroom to include both global and local content and relationships, flavoured by diverse cultural distinctions.   “Local diversity and global connectedness mean not only that there can be no standard; they also mean that the most important skill students need to learn is to negotiate regional, ethnic, or class-based dialects”.  (The New London Group, pg. 8

While the New London Group article was written in 1996, it was bold to address some of the utopian ideals within education and literacy; individualized education at both a local and global level, with no standards and a high regard for cultural and linguistic differences in the classroom.   Sadly, literacy is influenced by the very diversity and globalization that is forcing most of our social changes.  These changes can be best described using the very words of described by the authors; “Fast Capitalism” (pg. 10); “rigorously exclusive” (pg.6); and “market driven” (pg.6).  As Dobson and Willinsky states “a gender gap still persists in many parts of the world, being wider in some countries”.  (2009, pg. 12)  This gap may be an indicator “that in certain respects there has been very little movement in the gender gap in the last two decades”.  (pg. 13)  Perhaps with such disparities in our global context, the goal of our educational organizations and facilitators should be to ensure that a standard is met with regards to information literacy- “ the ability to locate, evaluate,  and use effectively the needed information”  (Dobson & Willinsky, 2009, pg. 18)  This would ensure that a “competence is some field of knowledge, technology, etc.” (Oxford Canadian Dictionary) is achieved.


Dobson, T. & Willinsky, J.  (2009).  Digital Literacy.  Submitted to The Cambridge Handbook on Literacy

International Federation of Workers’ Educational Association.  (unknown).  The international programs.  Retreived online 10 Nov 2009 from the World Wide Web:

New London Group. (1996). A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies. Designing Social Futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 60-92.

Ong, Walter (1982). Orality and literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. London: Methuen.

 Oxford Canadian Dictionary.  (1998).  Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press.

November 14, 2009   1 Comment

Commentary #2

Commentary #2

Writing Spaces: Hypertext and the Remediation of Print Re-examined

Erin Gillespie

ETEC 540

November 15, 2009


The debate surrounding the future of text is never more exciting than when considering the relationship between print and hypertext.  It is in the middle ground that the debate over what is the future of text, hypertext or print, is nicely packaged and tagged as “both” by Bolter (2001) due to one process: remediation. Bolter (2001) contends that interactivity and the merging of text and graphics are strategies inherent in electronic writing that create a more authentic experience for the reader, yet they are dependent on the knowledge of print. In chapter three of Writing Space, Bolter (2001) presents hypertext as the remediation of print, not as its replacement.

Bolter’s (2001) remediation walks a fine line between enthusiasts of new electronic writing and the old guard of traditional print. He argues soundly that hypertext remediates print because it is historically connected to print, while at the same time the two are easily distinguishable from each other (Bolter, 2001). According to Bolter (2001), electronic writing affords movement amongst visual space and conceptual space, and these spaces are different from the space in a book, yet knowledge of a book helps us recognize these affordances.  To optimize our experience when writing electronically, we depend on our former knowledge of print (Bolter, 2001). In other words, hypertext does not stand alone, uninfluenced by the history of print technology. Bolter (2001) argues that this fact is what makes electronic hypertext, ironically, new: Our dependency on and confrontation with our knowledge of the printed book when processing hypertext.  

Remediation may be difficult to apply to the field of text in a few generations, a possibility Bolter (2001) does not explore in chapter three of Writing Space. It is interesting to consider this extreme, and contrast it with Bolter’s (2001) middle ground theory by examining the field of education from an ecological point of view.  One way to re-examine the argument surrounding print and hypertext is to consider Darwin’s theory of evolution. Complex organisms evolve from simplistic organisms over time in an undirected progression of modification (Futuyma, 2005). Continuing with this theory, Darwin’s  natural selection suggests that a member of a species develops a functional advantage and over time, the advantaged members of the species survive to better compete for resources (Futuyma, 2005).

Consider print the simplistic organism: the reader and writer have one entry and exit point and information is linear and fixed, according to Bolter (2001). Less simplistic is hypertext, which can be read from a variety of entry points, is fluid and associative (Bolter, 2001). If we continue with this metaphor, the advantaged members of the species of text will be hypertext if we evolve to value fluidity and associative characteristics in text. Considering the popularity of hypertext and the flow of microcontent in Web 2.0 applications as described by Alexander (2006) and the speed of Jenkin’s (2004) media convergence, this direction in evolution is not unrealistic. Hypertext may survive in the place of print. However, the survival of a species is still dependent on the balance of its ecosystem, an in this metaphor the ecosystem is the student.

It is not illogical to apply an ecological perspective to the pedagogy of a school when discussing the adaptation hypertext. In an examination of factors that affect the use of technology in schools, Zhao and Frank (2003) used an ecological perspective and found it to be an effective analytical framework.  Zhao and Frank’s (2003) framework considers students as the ecosystem, computers a living species, teachers as members of a keystone (the most important) species and external educational innovations as the invasion of an exotic species. It is fair to consider hypertext an external educational innovation in this framework due to its very recent introduction to the field of education and thus, the student. Print, on the other hand, would be a species comfortably functioning in the ecosystem as a textbook. Consider again Bolter’s (2001) contention that hypertext is distinct from yet dependent on print. As an invading exotic species, hypertext is initially dependent on the pre-existing species of print for survival in the ecosystem. Students need to know how to read and how to write text in order to understand hypertext.

However, Bolter’s (2001) theory of remediation holds true only if the ecosystem, or student, is dependent on the species of printed text prior to the introduction of the exotic species of hypertext. However, Bolter (2001) does not look further ahead than remediation. It is possible that in the future, students will be introduced to hypertext prior to developing a dependency on print knowledge. Currently, hypertext is functioning as the exotic, invading species for Tapscott’s (2004) Net Generation and Prensky’s (2001) Digital Natives. However, these same students will produce the Net Generation 2.0.  As parents of the Net Generation 2.0, they will function as Zhao and Frank’s (2003) keystone species, a species already adapted to survive with hypertext. In chapter three, concerning remediation and hypertext, Bolter (2001) argues that print is the tradition that hypertext depends on. However, Bolter (2001) did not consider hypertext as being dependent on previous versions of hypertext. Bolter’s (2001)remediation does not project far enough into the future. The ecosystem, as Net Generation 2.0 students, will remain balanced as the functional advantages of hypertext ensure survival of this exotic species through displacement of the disadvantaged species, traditional print. Remediation of print may lead to the extinction of a dependency on print itself.



Alexander, B (2006). Web 2.0: A new wave of innovation for teaching and learning? EDUCAUSE, Review, 41(2), 33-44. Retrieved from

Bolter, J. D. (2001). Writing space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

Futuyma, D. J. (2005). Evolution. Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates.

Jenkins, H. (2004) The cultural logic of media convergence. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 7(1), 33-43. doi: 10.1177/1367877904040603

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On The Horizion, 9 (5), 1-6. Retrieved from,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

Tapscott, D. (2004). The net generation and the school. Custom course materials ETEC 532 (pp. #2). Kelowna, B.C: University of British Columbia Okanagan, Bookstore. (Reprinted from Milken Family Foundation,

Zhao, Y., & Frank, K.A. (2003). Factors affecting technology uses in schools: An ecological perspective. American Educational Research Journal, 40(4), 807-840. Retrieved from

November 14, 2009   1 Comment

Formal Commentary #2 by Dilip Verma

Hypermedia Literacy and Constructivist Learning Theory

The changing form of representation in modern media, and the changing relationship between reader and author in hypertext both call for a change in the method by which literacy is taught. The way that hypertext, or better still hypermedia, is experienced and produced requires a different set of skills than those taught in the traditional classroom. The fact that some of the changes called for by the New London Group closely mirror practices suggested in constructivist learning theory gives added weight to the impetus for a shift in classroom methodology. In constructivism, learning is student centered, and meaning is personal, being constructed actively by the student within a social context. These teaching techniques are precisely what are required to produce students literate in hypermedia.

Hypermedia incorporates multi-modes of meaning involving design decisions in, at the very least, the linguistic, audio, spatial and visual realms. Education has traditionally focused on the linguistic logical intelligence, but multi-literacy requires designers and viewers to develop multiple intelligences (as defined by Gardner) and multiple grammars for different modes of representation. Though parallel means of representation do exist between grammars (Cope and Kalantzis, 2006 citing Kress, 2000b and Kress and van Leeuwen, 1996), on the whole, different modes of representation present meaning differently. For example, speech, and consequently writing, organizes events temporally, whilst images represent spatially arranged entities (Kress, 2005, p.13). Therefore, language literacy requires a different grammar to visual literacy. Individual students naturally vary in their mastery of these grammars; one may have an instinctive understanding of spatial representation, while another is more aware of linguistic meaning. Traditionally, literacy has been taught mono grammatically, whereas constructivism embraces the idea of individual perspectives in a classroom that work collectively to create meaning.

The Pedagogy of Multiliteracies (The New London Group, 1996) calls for the active construction of meaning and teaches learners how to be “active designers of meaning” (Cope and Kalantzis, 2006, p10). In the traditional classroom, learners are encouraged to repeat modes of representation in the production or consumption of media rather than construct new, personalized designs influenced by their own perspective, a perspective influenced by cultural mediation based on Vygotsky’s Cultural Historical Activity Theory. In the “Multiliterate” classroom, students become constructors of meaning and are transformed in the process. “Meaning makers remake themselves” (The New London Group, 1996, p15). The Pedagogy of Multiliteracies is a student centered, active process that furthers a Constructivist agenda.

In the traditional text, as in the traditional classroom, the author offered a single vision or mode of representation to which the student adapted herself and “followed the strict order established by the writer while needing to interpret the word signifiers, turning them into his or her signs” (Kress, 2005, p.9). In hypermedia, it is the visitor, not the author, who determines the path (Kress, 2005) and students are “agents” (Cope and Kalantzis, 2006, p. 7) of their own knowledge path. Rather than being passive, hypermedia readers are “meaning makers (that) don’t simply use what they have been given; they are fully makers and remakers of signs and transformers of meaning” (Cope and Kalantzis, 2006, p.10). The fluid nature of meaning suggests a constructivist epistemology and a shift from the author or teacher as authority. The New London Group does not see meaning as a concept external to the learner, but rather as internal. Traditional teachers, just like authors, were authorities, establishing a path through their text, which the reader or student followed diligently. Digital authors and teachers are no longer mappers of knowledge; they are not sources of knowledge, just sources of information. If the students of today are to be “actors rather than audiences” (Cope and Kalantzis, 2006, p. 8), a student-centered focus for education is called for.

Finally, digital literacy requires a “more holistic approach to pedagogy” (Cope and Kalantzis, 2006, p.3). The interconnected modes of representation suggest a classroom where the focus is on ways of knowing rather than the division of knowledge into isolated areas. Modern literacy requires a knowledge of multiple grammars, those of linguistic, visual, audio, gestural, and spatial and representation (The New London Group, 1996, p. 17). Moreover, an understanding of how these modes combine synaesthetically is a separate grammar all together. This last form, the multimodal representation of meaning, is special in that it represents the way the other modes play off each other to create interconnected patterns of meaning (The New London Group, 1996, p. 17). This multimodal grammar is important for digital literacy as children are naturally synaesthetic, in the way they combine their modes of representation, and “much of our everyday representational experience is intrinsically multimodal” (Cope and Kalantzis, 2006, p. 13). If literacy is to be relevant to learners, then pedagogical activities must be authentic and related to students’ experience in a world of multimodal communication. Hence it is counterproductive and unnatural to compartmentalize modes of meaning as traditional pedagogy has done.


Cope, B., & Kalantzis, M. (2006). ‘Multiliteracies’: New Literacies, New Learning. Pedagogies: An International Journal, 4(3), 164-195.

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

The New London Group. (1996). A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies. Designing Social Futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 60-92.

November 14, 2009   1 Comment

Uncontrolled Response

            Young people have become used to finding all that they are searching for literally at their fingertips. They no longer need to physically go to the library and search the stacks for the information they require, all they have to do is surf the net. Kress (2005) declares that “In particular, it seems evident to many commentators that writing is giving way, is being displaced by image in many instances of communication where previously it had held sway.” Kress (2005, p.5) expresses his belief that this change reflects social and political changes that are taking place and that he thinks that we as teachers cannot ignore. Young people are more passive in many ways than previous generations. They prefer the impact of the visual instead of interpreting print. Bolter (2001) also appears to see the visual finally usurping the role of print as he tells us that “the history of Western prose might be understood as a series of strategies for controlling the visual and the sensory” (p.48). Kress (2005) agrees that writing and images do not have the same purposes and that in his opinion “speech and writing are themselves composed of such diverse phenomena as to make it difficult to regard each as a unified, homogeneous resource” (p.12).

            This leads me to think that as educators we must be aware of the different ways in which print and visuals impact our students and that it is our responsibility to actively show students how to work with multimodal sites, rather than just allow students to passively accept information presented in this format. Reading is a skill which must be encouraged as it engages the reader in an active interpretation of what is presented. The reader reacts to the words whether to agree or to disagree with the author. Images do not require a specific training and yet they can be more invasive and if the viewer does not know how to interpret what he or she sees, then there is a danger that he or she will passively accept (consciously or unconsciously) whatever underlying idea is presented. Bolter (2001) warns of this change when he states that “The image therefore slips out of the control of the word and makes its own claim to presenting the authentic and the real. It becomes hard to imagine how traditional prose could successfully compete with the dynamic and heterogeneous visual experience.” (p.70) Students react to the visual impact and rarely question what they see, words require analysis, images evoke feelings.

            Another worrying aspect is that images can have hidden messages that young people are not aware of. Harmon (1995) explains that “Like all forms of media, subliminals are taking new shape in the digital age.” There have been many fears about the uses of subliminals in media advertising  and Harmon tells us that we now should be aware of how they are being used on computers today. This sounds alarmist, but as Kress (2005) explains “In spatially organized representation, the elements that are chosen for representation are simultaneously present, and it is their spatial arrangement that is used to make (one kind of) meaning” (p.13). These images and their physical arrangement can evoke unconscious responses.  Many of our biggest companies have long been aware of the power of the visual and employ top psychologists to help design images that will have a powerful impact of their audience. Evans and Hall (2004) explain that “The symbolic power of the image to signify is in no sense restricted to the conscious level and cannot always easily be expressed in words. In fact, this may be one of the ways in which the so called power of the image differs from that of the linguistic sign. What is often said about the ‘power of the image’ is indeed that its impact is immediate and powerful even when its precise meaning remains, as it were, vague, suspended – numinous.”(p.311) 

            It is now common for teachers to send students to investigate topics on the Internet as we are aware that students find it easier to access information online rather than to search for information in print form. My concern is when and how are students taught to filter and to critically examine the information they discover. Kress says that “Semiotics does not deal with learning; just as pedagogy or psychology do not deal with signs. However, the process described here is in my view a description of the processes of learning: transformative engagement in the world, transformation constantly of the self in that engagement, transformation of the resources for representation outwardly and inwardly “(P.20-21). Solitary and passive students are most at risk in my experience as they do not have the skills to critically examine what they discover nor do they have the social support to orient them.

            We are aware that they are drawn to sites which offer exciting images and colourful packaging, but how are we as educators responding to these changes? Many teachers incorporate the new changes in technology into their classes as they appear, but do we really change the way we think and teach or do we merely incorporate new technology into our existing classroom plans? I believe that we cannot ignore multimodality.  Kress (2005) exhorts us to accept that “Reading has to be rethought given that the commonsense of what reading is was developed in the era of the unquestioned dominance of writing, in constellation with the unquestioned dominance of the medium of the book.” (p.17). If our goal is to educate our students; then we as teachers must first educate ourselves. Senmali (2001) explains that “A reconceptualized vision of new literacies education would include an explicit effort to enable students to acquire the ability to understand how visual media work to produce meanings.” We must learn about the advantages and dangers inherent in multimodality and its uses and then design courses which will equip our students with the skills they need to handle critically what they see, rather than be manipulated by the information they discover. 



Bolter, J. (2001). Writing space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Mahwah, N.J. USA.


Evans, J. and Hall, S. (2004). Visual Culture – The Reader.  Sage Publications. New Delhi, India. Retrieved the 10th of November, 2009 from:


Harmon, A. (1995) Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, USA. Retrieved the 6th of November, 2009 from:


Kress, G. (2005). Gains and losses: New forms of texts, knowledge and learning. Computers and Composition. 22(1), 5-22. Retrieved the 4th of November, 2009 from


Semali, L. (2001). Defining new literacies in curricular practice. Reading Online, 5(4). Retrieved the 13th of November, 2009 from:

November 13, 2009   2 Comments

Commentary 2: Hypertext

In Chapter 3: Hypertext and the Remediation of Print in the book Writing Space: Computers, Hypertext, and the Remediation of Print, Jay Bolter examines hypertext. In the introduction to the chapter, he states how common hypertext has become and that it provides beneficial links to other information (Bolter, 2001, p.27). He compares hypertext to a footnote in a book and says that it is the electronic equivalent of a footnote, except that hypertext can point to a page that has additional hypertext links that point to additional pages that are not necessarily less important (Bolter, 2001, p.27). He states that the role of hypertext is to provide a transparent structure to a website, provide footnote-like information, and define relationships (Bolter, 2001, p.27). He also describes the role of writers who use hypertext: “The principle task of authors of hypertextual fiction on the Web or in stand-alone form is to use links to define relationships among textual elements, and these links constitute the rhetoric of the hypertext” (Bolter, 2001, p.28-29).

The author has subdivided the chapter into the following sections:

·        Word Processing and Topical Writing

·        Hypertext

·        Writing as Construction

·        Global Hypertext

·        Hypertext as Remediation

·        The Old and New Hypertext

In Word Processing and Topical Writing, Bolter (2001) describes word-processing with a computer as being a dynamic and flexible way to work because documents can easily be edited (p.29). He states that when word processing, writers think and write about topics “whose meaning transcends their constituent words” (Bolter, 2001, p.29). Also through word processing, you can set up complex hierarchies of many topics in a tree-like structure which is a manageable way to work because word processing enables users to move, delete and add information with ease, unlike a typewriter, where more than one hierarchy is difficult to manage (Bolter, 2001, p.32).

In Hypertext, Bolter (2001) describes the process of writing on a computer called prewriting in which students create a “network of elements” (p.33) that can be easily edited, moved around, and removed (p.33). Prior to writing with a computer, the writing process was linear (Bolter, 2001, p.33). Bolter (2001) describes the electronic connections that hypertext affords its readers compared to having to use an index or page numbers in printed books (p.35). He also describes electronic writing as being topographic whereby writers organize their text into units of information that are linked to a “textual structure spatially as well as verbally” (Bolter, 2001, p.36).

In Writing as Construction, Bolter (2001) describes writing with a computer as being both inclusive because it is “open to multiple systems of representation” (p.36) and constructive because “an electronic writer can build new elements from traditional ones” (p.37).

In Global Hypertext, Bolter (2001) defines hypertext as “the dynamic interconnection of a set of symbolic elements” (p.38). He states that it’s the melding of both computer programming and writing that creates hypertext whereby writers write within data structures (Bolter, 2001, p.38).

In Hypertext as Remediation, Bolter (2001) states that hypertext would not exist without digital technology and that it is the “remediation of print” (p.42) because it is an improvement to printed text, which is linear and static (p.42). He states that hypertext is more representative of how people think because people think by making associations, not in a linear manner (p.42). As a result, the use of hypertext allows us to “write as we think” (Bolter, p.42).

In the Old and the New Hypertext, Bolter (2001) describes hypertext as a type of writing that has made a break from the past with printed writing (p.44).  It is characterized by “interactivity and the unification of text and graphics for achieving an authentic experience for its reader” (Bolter, 2001, p.45). Bolter (2001) describes the dependency that hypertext has on print: “print forms the tradition on which electronic writing depends, and electronic writing is that which goes beyond print” (p.46). This dependency is reminiscent of “the age of Secondary Orality” (Ong, 1982, p.3) meaning that electronic technology such as hypertext “depends on writing and print for its existence” (Ong, 1982, p.3).

Throughout the chapter, Bolter (2001) describes hypertext as being a positive invention due to the fact that word processing and the creation of hypertext links have made the processes of writing and reading easier. However, DeStefano and LeFevre (2005) state that hypertext links impair reading performance due to the fact that it makes it more demanding for people to make decisions and process graphics while reading (p.1636).

Bolter (2001) also provides a positive account on the linking capability of hypertext links: being able to link to additional information. Horton (2006) concurs that people are accustomed today to being able to quickly read through online text by using hypertext links to navigate through an online document and link to relevant information inside or outside an online document (p. 534-535). Horton (2006) recommends the use of hypertext links when designing eLearning courses because hypertext links make it easier for learners to access and read about topics related to the course content (p.305). Horton (2006) suggests that hypertext links be used to cross-reference reference information, background theoretical information, exceptions to rules, procedures, definitions, and prerequisite information (p. 305-306).

However, Clark and Mayer (2008) recommend that hypertext links be used sparingly when designing an eLearning course because if they are used too much, they can have a negative impact on the learner’s ability to learn (p.308). They recommend that hypertext links not be used for core course information and that they be used for information that is peripheral to the course as many learners will skip the linked information (Clark and Mayer, 2008, p.308). In addition, Driscoll (2000) also cautions against the use of hypertext links in instruction because they can distract the learner by removing them from where they are currently learning and sending them off in different directions (p.161-162).


The invention of hypertext has revolutionised the way in which people write and read electronic documents and learn.  Bolter (2001) describes the many qualities that hypertext has brought to us including: ease of writing, ease of linking to additional information, ease of navigating, and ease of reading. In addition, hypertext links can be a wonderful resource when designing an eLearning course. However, they need to be used with caution: only when necessary and not for essential core course content as they can distract the learner.



Bolter, J. (2001).  Writing spaces: computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print.  Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Eribaum.

Clark, R. C., & Mayer, R. E. (2008). e-Learning and the Science of Instruction: Pfeiffer San Francisco.

DeStefano, D. & LeFevre, J. (2007). Cognitive Load in hypertext Reading: A review. Computers in Human Behaviour, 23, 1616-1641.

Driscoll, M.P. (2000). Psychology of Learning for Instruction. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

Horton, W  (2006) E-Learning by Design, John Willey & Sons, Inc.

Ong, Walter (1982). Orality and literacy: The Technologizing of the Word. London: Methuen.

November 11, 2009   1 Comment

How word processors and beyond may be changing literacy

Commentary #2

The word processor, in combination with the computer disk and CRT monitor, was first introduced in 1977 (Kunde, 1986). As Bolter points out “the word processor is not so much a tool for writing, as it is a tool for typography (p. 9).” It seems that, even today, the word processor is essentially used as a tool to mimic conventional methods of typing. Whereas older printing processes lock “the type in an absolutely rigid position in the chase, locking the chase firmly onto a press,” a word processor only differs in that it composes text “on a computer terminal” in “electronic patterns (letters) previously programmed into the computer (Ong, p. 119).” Bolter notes this by stating “most writers have enthusiastically accepted the word processor precisely because it does not challenge their conventional notion of writing. The word processor is an aid for making perfect printed copy: the goal is still ink on paper (p. 9).” The word processor helps better facilitate the processes that were once done on the typewriter. That is, writers still type in text letter by letter, but the computer greatly improves revision. A few of these improvements include copying/cutting and paste, changing fonts and paper size, and inserting automatically updating table of contents, outlines, references. It is “in using these facilities, the writer is thinking and writing in terms of verbal units or topics, whose meaning transcends their constituent words (Bolter, p. 29).” In this regard, the word processor did not change the printed word. However, although the word processor did not fundamentally change how a printed product looks, it did have a major impact on industry and business and on literacy in education.

In the early 1980s there was much focus on the difference word processors were making in industry, business, and scholarly work. Bergman points out that “this electronic revolution in the office [word processing] may change who does what sort of work, create some jobs and eliminate others (p. F3).” In fact, in 1977 5.8% of jobs offered in the New York Times mentioned computer literacy skills such as word processing, this number doubled by 1983 (Compaine, p. 136). This was especially evident in clerical positions in which “the proportion of secretary/typist want ads that required word processing skills went from zero in 1977 to 15 percent in 1982 (Compaine, p. 136).” Furthermore, Word processors, coupled with a phone line greatly increased the speed that documents were sent and received. Instead of mailing or dictating documents to another person, documents including graphs and charts could now be written and transmitted, in seconds, over the telephone, more cheaply than previous methods (Bencivenga, p. 11). Scholars “with the help of a computer programmed to scan the text quickly, picking out passages that contain the same word used in different contexts (Compaine, p. 137).” In the early 1980s Word processors and computers fundamentally changed how we process information and thus had much impact on literacy. Compaine refers “to computer skills as additional to, not replacements (p.139)” to literacy and that “whatever comes about will not replace existing skills, but supplement them (p. 141).” Compaine’s essay was written in 1983, but this trend continues today.

Furthermore, the word processor has affected literacy amongst students. In 1983 Ron Truman published an article in The Globe and Mail in which he reported that elementary teachers said word processors were “having a remarkable effect on how children learn to use language: writing on a computer screen improves spelling, grammar and syntax (p. CL14).” An article by Goldberg et al. entitled “The effect of computers on student writing: A meta-analysis of studies from 1992 to 2002″ summarizes that thirty-five previous studies concluded that the “writing process [in regards to K–ı2 students writing with computers vs. paper-and-pencil] is more collaborative, iterative, and social in computer classrooms as compared with paper-and-pencil” and that “computers should be used to help students develop writing skills . . . that, on average, students who use computers when learning to write are not only more engaged and motivated in their writing, but they produce written work that is of greater length and higher quality (p. 1).” Similarly, Beck and Fetherston conclude that “The use of the word processor promoted students’ motivation to write, engaged the students in editing, assisted proof-reading, and the students produced longer texts” and “produced writing that was better using the word processor than that which was achieved using the traditional paper and pencil method (p. 159).”

Different forms of electronic writing have participated “in the restructuring of our whole economy of writing (Bolter, p. 23).” Even as early as 1983, Compaine predicted that in respect to electronic texts, “many adults would today recoil in horror at the thought of losing the feel and portability of printed volumes . . . print is no longer the only rooster in the barnyard (p. 132).” Looking at present day and into the future, the computer continues to reshape and challenge the traditional form of the printed book: “our culture is using the computer to refashion the printed book, which, as the most recent dominant technology, is the one most open to challenge (Bolter, p. 23).” The World Wide Web and most recently the advent of web 2.0 have challenged traditional writing media and the way in which we create electronic media. Word processors have become one tool in an arsenal of programs developed for electronic publishing (such as Dreamweaver for web development, PowerPoint for presentations, iMovie and Movie Maker, and Adobe Flash for animations). As such, literacy still includes traditional texts, but much has been added with digital literacy. Books, magazines, newspapers, academic journals, etc. predominately written using a word processor (or another desktop publishing software), in their traditional form will not be replaced in the near future, but they have certainly had to give up much of their dominance to non-traditional, electronic, writing spaces.



Barbara R. Bergmann (1982, May 30). A Threat Ahead From Word Processor. The New York Times. p. F3.

Beck, N., & Fetherston, T. (2003). The effects of incorporating a word processor into a year three writing program. Information Technology in Childhood Education Annual, 2003 (1), 139 – 161.  Retrieved January 15, 2009, from

Bencivenga, Jim (1980, March 28). Word processors faster than dictation. The Christian Science Monitor. p. 11.

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

Compaine, Benjamin, M. (1983). The New Literacy. Daedalus, 112(1), pp. 129-142.

Goldberg, A., Russell, M., & Cook, A. (2003). The effect of computers on student writing: A meta- analysis of studies from 1992 to 2002. Journal of Technology, Learning, and Assessment, 2(1). Retrieved November 7, 2009, from

Johnson, Sharon. (1981, October 11). Word Processors Spell Out A New Role for Clerical Staff. New York Times, p. SM28.

Kunde, Brian. (1986). A Brief History of Word Processing (Through 1986). Fleabonnet Press. Retrieved November 7, 2009 from

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

Truman, Ron. (1983, November 24). Word processors prove boon in making youngsters literate. The Globe and Mail. p. CL.14.

November 8, 2009   1 Comment