He book Is modernity’s quintessential technology -? “a means of transportation through the space of experience, at the speed of a turning page,” as the poet Joseph Brood’s put It. But now that the rustle of the book’s turning page competes with the flicker of the screen’s twitching pixel, we must consider the possibility that the book may not be around much longer. If it isn’t -? if we choose to replace the book -? what will become of reading and the print culture it fostered?
And what does it tell us about ourselves that we may soon retire this most remarkable, five-hundred-year-old genealogy? We have already taken the first steps on our Journey to a new form of literacy -? “digital literacy. ” The fact that we must now distinguish among deferent types of literacy hints at how far we have moved away from traditional notions of reading. The screen mediates everything from our most private communications to our enjoyment of writing, drama, and games.
It is the busiest port of entry for popular culture and requires navigation skills different from those that helped us master print literacy. Enthusiasts and self-appointed experts assure us that this new digital literacy presents an advance for mankind; the book is evolving, progressing, improving, they argue, and every improvement demands an uneasy period of adjustment. Sophisticated forms of collaborative “information foraging” will replace solitary deep reading; the connected screen will replace the disconnected book.
Perhaps, eons from now, our love affair with the printed word will be remembered as but a brief episode in our cultural maturation, and the book as a once-beloved technology we’ve outgrown. But If enthusiasm for the new digital literacy runs high, It also runs to feverish extremes. Dealt literacy’s boosters are not unlike the people who were swept up In the multiculturalism fad of the 1 sass and sass.
Intent on encouraging a diversity of viewpoints, they initially argued for supplementing the canon so that it acknowledged the intellectual contributions of women and minorities. But like multiculturalism, which soon changed its focus from broadening the canon to eviscerating it by purging the contributions of “dead white males,” digital literacy’s advocates increasingly speak of replacing, rather than supplementing, print literacy. What is “reading” anyway, they ask, in a multimedia world like ours?
We are increasingly destructible, impatient, and convenience-obsessed -? and the paper book Just can’t keep up. Shouldn’t we simply acknowledge that we are becoming people of the screen, not people of the book? Will the internet and other technology replace the book as the chief tool of learning? By bedaub he book is modernity’s quintessential technology -? “a means of transportation Brood’s put it. But now that the rustle of the books turning page competes with the “digital literacy.