Clive Thompson on the New Literacy

With this Wired article, Clive Thompson put me into a happy place, and I wanted to share it. He’s quoting Andrea Lunsford:

“I think we’re in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of
which we haven’t seen since Greek civilization,” she says. For
Lunsford, technology isn’t killing our ability to write. It’s reviving
it–and pushing our literacy in bold new directions.

The first thing she found is that 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. Of all the
writing that the Stanford students did, a stunning 38 percent of it
took place out of the classroom–life writing, as Lunsford calls it.
Those Twitter updates and lists of 25 things about yourself add up.

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. Unless they got a job that
required producing text (like in law, advertising, or media), they’d
leave school and virtually never construct a paragraph again.

But is this explosion of prose good, on a technical level? Yes.
Lunsford’s team found that the students were remarkably adept at what
rhetoricians call kairos–assessing their audience and
adapting their tone and technique to best get their point across. The
modern world of online writing, particularly in chat and on discussion
threads, is conversational and public, which makes it closer to the
Greek tradition of argument than the asynchronous letter and essay
writing of 50 years ago.

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