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Renee's Academic Realm\Essay 3

B. The Notion of Literacy

C. Print vs. Online Literacy

D. Electronic Texts: implications for an Online Literacy

E. Re-defining Literacy

F. Conclusion

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D) Electronic Texts: implications for an Online Literacy for the Reader and the Writer

Unlike print texts (which are passive), electronic texts are dynamic and interactive. With interactive features like hyperlinks (that induces readers to click on them), and visually stimulating content e.g. animations and graphics, readers are induced to participate or interact with the electronic text at a more engaging level. Indeed,

  • "while a reader can suffer a lapse of attention, glazed eyes simply gliding down the pages of even a good book, the reader/ user of computerised text is less likely to drift in thought as options implying directions of the reading experience flash upon the screen." (Robinson, 1985: 34)
  • This implies that the online reader and writer must develop a set of skills or strategies for reading and writing that is quite different from print reading and writing.

    First of all, the online reader must know how to find his way around the myriad of texts interwoven together as a fabric by hyperlinks. In order to be able to do this, not only does the reader need to be familiar with the tools for Net surfing; the writer has an important part to play in providing good navigation in the hypertext. The reader is no longer the passive reader of the print text but an 'adventurer' who finds his way around a hypertext, with the help of the writer. While the writer of a print text leads and guides his audience throughout his whole story or text, the writer of hypertext provides an array of choices and directions for his readers to find their own way. He has transformed from a 'compass' (points out the direction) into a 'map' (provides overview of different locations).

    Secondly, the expectations of the online reader must change from that of an enclosed, focused text or story to that of an open, defocused text without a centre or any limit or linearity. In relation, the hypertext writer needs to be aware of the new possibilities as well as limitations, striking a balance between control and freedom. This suggests a need for a new kind of literacy.

    The last, but not least, is the changing roles of the reader and the writer. This is related to an earlier part regarding the navigational skills of the reader. According to Roland Barthes, the birth of the new reader must be requited by the death of the author (Note: I have read about Barthes somewhere but I regret to say that I am unable to trace this idea back to its source). What Barthes meant was basically, that the roles of the reader and the writer has changed, in the postmodern era. The new reader plays a central role in defining a "new, postmodern literacy" (Tuman, 1992: 65), as opposed to the writer, who has traditionally been deemed to be playing this role instead. The writer, as a result, becomes 'dead', for he or she is no longer the unifying force behind a text. In Barthes' words, it is the reader that this new literacy is located:

  • "Here we discern the total being of writing: a text consists of multiple writings… but there is a site where this multiplicity is collected, and this site is not the author…but the reader…the unity of a text is not in its origin but in its destination." (Barthes, in Tuman, 1992: 65)
  • Copyright Renee's Realm. 2000.