There’s a great article in the new Kairos titled “New Literacies and Old: A Dialogue” which is a back and forth Q & A between Stuart Moulthrop and Nancy Kaplan of the University of Baltimore. The gist of the discussion centers on the future of writing and the redefinition of literacy, and if you have a spare 20 minutes, the whole thing is definitely worth the read.
I especially find Moulthrop’s definition of the new literacy interesting, and it has a great deal of relevance when thinking about the read/write Web:
What’s the new literacy like? For one thing, it understands any text or writing practice as at least potentially connected to a hypertextual network: we would always teach “writing in the archive,” as the Danish theorist Rune Dalgaard has called it. And while cross-textual relations have certainly been a part of print culture, the new literacy would recognize that, as Pierre Lévy says, the “pragmatics” of communication have fundamentally changed. The Internet is not a system for filing sheets of paper, even if we do still talk about Web “pages.” In electronic writing, the technical foundations of the word itself have changed.
So a new literacy also needs to consider the extension of alphabetism into logical processing. This doesn’t mean letting graduate students count Visual Basic against their foreign language requirements; it means teaching them — and potentially, students from middle school up — how to design documents with markup languages. As we move closer toward Berners-Lee’s “semantic Web,” this will seem all the more necessary.
A new approach to literacy also means inviting our students to deploy writing in forms other than academic essays, book reports, and five-paragraph themes: in Web logs, serious IM dialogues, hypertexts, and my particular favorite, multi-user object-oriented spaces, or MOOs.
I find the whole idea of moving the instruction of writing toward the design of documents with markup languages to be really intriguing. But it’s not a big stretch to think that in 10 years or so, most all writing will include links that annotate the text. And certainly blogs facilitate that linking process. The thing is that when I do a quick mental survey of the English teachers here at my school, there are only a few who I think might even start to understand what’s on the horizon. Not that I fully get it either, of course. But that wouldn’t be any fun anyway.