Think Differently:Inventing Electrate Thinking PracticesIntroduction to ElectracyRichard Smyth, C.M.Full DigressorUnderAcademy College19 February 2013
What is Electracy? a neologism created by Greg Ulmerdescribing the skills necessary to exploit thefull communicative potential of new media “Electracy is to digital media what literacy isto print media” draws attention to need for entirely new termthat avoids etymological connection toliteracy
Need for a “Native” Concept Proliferation of “Literacies” digital literacy media literacy information literacy computer literacy procedural literacy All based on old paradigm of “literacy”(littera “letter”)
Need for a “Native” Concept“It is important to distinguish electracy fromother terms, such as computer-basedliteracy, Internet literacy, digital literacy,electronic literacies, metamedia literacy,and even cyber-punk literacy. None ofthese other terms have the breadthelectracy does as a concept, and none ofthem draw their ontology from electronicmedia exclusively.”--James Inman. “Electracy for the Ages: Collaboration with the Pastand Future.”
Apparatus Theory an apparatus is a “social machine” thatmaps the intersection among communications and mnemonictechnologies institutional practices employing thesetechnologies subject formation (i.e. conceptions ofselfhood) resulting from suchintersections
Time LineαlphaβeticLiteracy750 BCEPrinting Press1447 CEPeter Ramus1515-15721820190119271984
Grammatology study of “the history and theory of writing” uses the history of literacy as an analogy toour own moment also uses comparisons with the transitionfrom orality to literacy to organize inquiryinto the transition from literacy to electracy(Electronic Monuments xxiii) “Literacy shows us by analogy what we arelooking for, but it does not give us theanswer.” (Internet Invention 29)
Some of Ulmer’s analogies “What selfhood was to the Greeks,branding is to us.” “Playing one’s avatar is for electracywhat writing an essay is to literacy” “Electracy does for the affective bodywhat literacy did for the cogitativemind”- Ulmer. “The Genealogy of Electracy.”
Some more analogies “School is to literacy as the internetis to electracy” (29) “Performance may be to electracywhat definition was to literacy” (38) “A literate person reasons on paper(text); an electrate person feelsonline (felt)” (145)-- Ulmer. Internet Invention: From Literacy to Electracy
Analogical Heuretics (Process)Tree : dialectical logic ::Rhizome : ___________?A variation on this exercise is to selecta different natural form as thevehicle of the metaphor:Tree : dialectical logic ::A natural form : A classification system-- Ulmer. “Handbook for a Theory Hobby”
Analogical Heuretics (1stExample)concepts : literacy :: x : electracyx = “decepts” (for example)literacy makes conceptual thinkingpossibleelectracy makes “deceptual thinking”possible (?)
“Deceptual Thinking”?“In sum, MUDs blur the boundariesbetween self and game, self androle, self and simulation. One playersays, ‘You are what you pretend tobe. . .you are what you play.’”--Sherry Turkle. Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of theInternet. p. 192.
“Deceptual Thinking”?“The changing nature of identity indigital civilization is manifested herein the theme of impersonation. . .”--Gregory Ulmer. Internet Invention. pp. 7-8.
Analogical Heuretics (2ndexample)definition : literacy :: infinition : electracyif definition is the act of making clear…then infinition is the act of making unclear…(http://electrateprofessor.wordpress.com/2009/05/01/infinition-thinking-fractal/)
Thinking-Fractal?Then infinition isthe creation ofunclear or “fuzzy”boundariesIf definition isthe creation ofclearboundaries. . .animated gif from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koch_snowflake
Inventing New Thinking“Electracy is not against literacy but is themeans to assist our society in adding a newdimension to our language capabilities.This project. . . proposes that our disciplinealso has primary responsibility for inventingthe practices of reasoning and communi-cating in ways native to new media.”--Jeff Rice. The Rhetoric of Cool: Composition Studies and NewMedia. p. xi.
Transitional Moments Fear“. . .this discovery of yours will createforgetfulness in the learners souls, becausethey will not use their memories; they willtrust to the external written characters andnot remember of themselves. . . . they willbe hearers of many things and will havelearned nothing; they will appear to beomniscient and will generally know nothing;they will be tiresome company, having theshow of wisdom without the reality.”-- Plato. Phaedrus.
Transitional Moments Fear“As a cognitive neuroscientist and scholar ofreading, I am particularly concerned withthe plight of the reading brain as itencounters this technologically rich society .. . the reading brain is slowly becomingendangered - the unforeseen consequencesof the transition to a digital epoch that isaffecting every aspect of our lives. . .”-- Maryanne Wolf. “Learning to Think in a Digital World.”
“Transitions like the one from print to electronicmedia do not take place without rippling or,more likely, reweaving the entire social andcultural web. The tendencies outlined above arealready at work. We dont need to look far tofind their effects. . . . our educational systemsare in decline; our students are less and lessable to read and comprehend their requiredtexts, and their aptitude scores have leveled offwell below those of previous generations.”--Sven Birkerts. The Gutenberg Elegies.Transitional Moments Fear
Electracy: Invitation to Invention“The difficulty of studying our ownmoment is that we are immersed init, and everything is in flux.”--Greg Ulmer. “The Grammatology of the Future.” p. 139.
ReferencesBirkerts, Sven. The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an ElectronicAge. Viewed 1/21/2010. http://archives.obs-us.com/obs/english/books/nn/bdbirk.htm.Plato. Phaedrus. Viewed 1/20/2010. http://classics.mit.edu/Plato/phaedrus.html.Rice, Jeff. The Rhetoric of Cool: Composition Studies and NewMedia. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP, 2007.Turkle, Sherry. Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. NewYork: Simon & Schuster, 1995.Ulmer, Gregory L. “The Genealogy of Electracy.” Reconstruction 9.2 (2009).Viewed 1/20/2010. http://reconstruction.eserver.org/092/ulmer.shtml.
References---. “The Grammatology of the Future.” Deconstructing Derrida: Tasks for theNew Humanities. Eds. Peter Pericles Trifonas and Michael A. Peters. NewYork: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005.---. “Handbook for a Theory Hobby.” Visible Language XXII.4 (Autumn, 1988).399-422.---. Electronic Monuments. Minneapolis, MN: U of Minnesota P, 2005.---. Internet Invention: From Literacy to Electracy. New York: LongmanPress, 2003.Wolf, Maryanne. “Learning to Think in a Digital World.” Boston Globe (5 Sept2007). Viewed 1/20/2010. http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2007/09/05/learning_to_think_in_a_digital_world/.
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