Renee's Academic Realm\Essay 3

A. The Electronic Text

B. The Notion of Literacy

C. Print vs. Online Literacy

D. Electronic Texts: implications for an Online Literacy

F. Conclusion










E) Re-defining Literacy: implications for the Writer and Educator

A simplistic definition of literacy simply would not suffice here, at least not where electronic writing is concerned. First of all, this definition is inadequate because there are obvious differences between electronic text and a print (or traditional text). Secondly, in view of the different nature of the electronic text from the print text, traditional notions of literacy have got to change accordingly. It would not be fair, much less accurate, to impose traditional notions of literacy on a new kind of literature (i.e. electronic texts), just as it is totally unjustified to judge whether a certain language is grammatical using exogenous factors (rules of another language) as a yardstick.

Nevertheless, much as I would like to abandon traditional notions of literacy and embrace the postmodern ideals of literacy, I must agree that 'old habits die hard'. Even as I am writing this essay, I am subconsciously abiding by the traditional literacy rules of linearity, centrality, originality and reflexivity. Or to put it in Tuman's words, my goal of writing is producing an essay,

  • "a work usually defined in terms of its structure or wholeness (its introduction, body, and conclusion all supporting the development of a central thesis) and its content (that its thesis is original or somehow insightful)." (Tuman, 1992: 4)
  • It would, hence, be best to unite both traditional and postmodern notions of literacy. Depending on the type of genre, these notions can be applied together with varying degrees, to achieve the optimal rhetorical effect. For example, if I am writing an academic essay, I would abide more by the traditional notions of literacy and less of the new notions of non-linearity and decentredness because the purpose of my writing is to bring across a central theme effectively and convincingly. But if I am writing poetry, I could explore with the new literary notions of non-linearity to greater degrees because I want to create more space for the reader to explore on their own. The ability to know when to apply each of the old and new notions of literacy, and to achieve a balance between the two, would be the concern of the writer of electronic texts.

    Electronic text has opened up new possibilities as much as it constraints, but this is not the issue here. Rather, I would argue that whether one regards electronic text as having positive or negative effects would rest on how well one is adaptable to this new literature and how well one is able to strike a balance between the old and the new notions of literacy. Thus, I would like to put forth my definition of literacy for this electronic age i.e. the ability to unite and reconcile traditional notions of print literacy with the postmodern notions of online literacy. Educators of literacy e.g. teachers have to recognise the importance of this dichotomy of literacy between the old and the new, and to take this into consideration when designing the syllabus for literacy education as well as imparting knowledge to the students.

    Copyright Renee's Realm. 2000.