New Literacy

August 31, 2009

The OLDaily post that caught my eye was “Clive Thompson on the New Literacy” (  Here’s why:  “Young people today write far more than any generation before them. That’s because so much socializing takes place online, and it almost always involves text… It’s almost hard to remember how big a paradigm shift this is. Before the Internet came along, most Americans never wrote anything, ever, that wasn’t a school assignment.”  This started me thinking on a more elemental level about the act of writing.  Since according to Thompson the definition of literacy has changed — drilling down more — couldn’t that mean that the definition of writing has changed?  Think about that! It’s not hard to wrap your brain around the fact that people do write far more today than in the past (cell phone texting, social networking sites, blogs, etc.) but it’s the definition of writing that is intriguing.    In the original posting Downs is referring to, this new “writing” is pondered (

If you asked my grandmother what ‘writing’ is, she would tell you it’s a letter she received from me in the mail.  You ask my nephew, he’d tell you it is the latest note he sent me on Facebook with lots of acronyms and video.  Thus Thompsons’ definition of literacy could also translate to writing: “multi-modal, involving much more than just text.”  For example, yesterday, I was posting on a friends ‘wall’ in Facebook, telling her about a magazine called “NewScientist.”  I was getting ready to go out and find the link to the magazine but Facebook did it for me; grabbed the link and a picture of the cover of the mag and asked me if I wanted it as a part of the post.  So not only did I write about the subject of interest in the traditional definition of ‘writing’ I was also able to add a visual and a link for more information about the topic — which could be part of the new definition of writing.  Or perhaps in this multi-media ages there is more than one definition of writing.


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