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Electracy: A Theoretical Framework for Interactive Media


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an introduction to the concept of electracy and the kind of thinking this invites during our time of major transition in communicative practices

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Electracy: A Theoretical Framework for Interactive Media

  1. 1. Electracy: A Theoretical Framework for Interactive Media Richard Smyth, Ph.D. VM606 – Emerson College 21 January 2010
  2. 2. What is Electracy? <ul><li>a neologism created by Greg Ulmer describing the skills necessary to exploit the full communicative potential of new media </li></ul><ul><li>“ Electracy is to digital media what literacy is to print media” </li></ul><ul><li>draws attention to need for entirely new term that avoids etymological connection to literacy </li></ul>
  3. 3. Need for a “Native” Concept <ul><li>Proliferation of “Literacies” </li></ul><ul><ul><li>digital literacy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>media literacy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>information literacy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>computer literacy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>procedural literacy </li></ul></ul><ul><li>All based on old paradigm of “literacy” (littera  “letter”) </li></ul>
  4. 4. Need for a “Native” Concept <ul><li>“ It is important to distinguish electracy from other terms, such as computer-based literacy, Internet literacy, digital literacy, electronic literacies, metamedia literacy, and even cyber-punk literacy. None of these other terms have the breadth electracy does as a concept, and none of them draw their ontology from electronic media exclusively.” </li></ul><ul><li>--James Inman. “Electracy for the Ages: Collaboration with the Past and Future.” </li></ul>
  5. 5. Apparatus Theory <ul><li>an apparatus is a “social machine” that maps the intersection among </li></ul><ul><ul><li>communications and mnemonic technologies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>institutional practices employing these technologies </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>subject formation (i.e. conceptions of selfhood) resulting from such intersections </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Apparatus = Major Epochs <ul><li>I. Orality: 40,000 BCE – present </li></ul><ul><li>II. Alphabetic Literacy: 5,000 BCE – present </li></ul><ul><li>III. Print Literacy: 1447 CE - present </li></ul><ul><li>IV. Electracy: 1830 - present </li></ul>
  7. 7. Time Line  lpha  etic Literacy 750 BCE Printing Press 1447 CE Peter Ramus 1515-1572 1820 1901 1927 1984
  8. 8. Grammatology <ul><li>study of “the history and theory of writing” </li></ul><ul><li>uses the history of literacy as an analogy to our own moment </li></ul><ul><li>also uses comparisons with the transition from orality to literacy to organize inquiry into the transition from literacy to electracy ( Electronic Monuments xxiii) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Literacy shows us by analogy what we are looking for, but it does not give us the answer.” ( Internet Invention 29) </li></ul>
  9. 9. Some of Ulmer’s analogies <ul><li>“ What selfhood was to the Greeks, branding is to us.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Playing one’s avatar is for electracy what writing an essay is to literacy” </li></ul><ul><li>“ Electracy does for the affective body what literacy did for the cogitative mind” </li></ul><ul><li>- Ulmer. “The Genealogy of Electracy.” </li></ul>
  10. 10. Some more analogies <ul><li>“ School is to literacy as the internet is to electracy” (29) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Performance may be to electracy what definition was to literacy” (38) </li></ul><ul><li>“ A literate person reasons on paper (text); an electrate person feels online (felt)” (145) </li></ul><ul><li>-- Ulmer. Internet Invention: From Literacy to Electracy </li></ul>
  11. 11. Analogical Heuretics (1 st Example) <ul><li>concepts : literacy :: x : electracy </li></ul><ul><li>x = “decepts” (for example) </li></ul><ul><li>literacy makes conceptual thinking possible </li></ul><ul><li>electracy makes “deceptual thinking” possible (?) </li></ul>
  12. 12. “ Deceptual Thinking”?
  13. 13. “ Deceptual Thinking”? <ul><li>“ In sum, MUDs blur the boundaries between self and game, self and role, self and simulation. One player says, ‘You are what you pretend to be. . .you are what you play.’” </li></ul><ul><li>--Sherry Turkle. Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. p. 192. </li></ul>
  14. 14. “ Deceptual Thinking”? <ul><li>“The changing nature of identity in digital civilization is manifested here in the theme of impersonation. . .” </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>--Gregory Ulmer. Internet Invention. pp. 7-8. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Inventing New Thinking <ul><li>“ Electracy is not against literacy but is the means to assist our society in adding a new dimension to our language capabilities. This project. . . proposes that our discipline also has primary responsibility for inventing the practices of reasoning and communi-cating in ways native to new media.” </li></ul><ul><li>--Jeff Rice. The Rhetoric of Cool: Composition Studies and New </li></ul><ul><li>Media. p. xi. </li></ul>
  16. 16. Analogical Heuretics (2 nd example) <ul><li>definition : literacy :: infinition : electracy </li></ul><ul><li>if definition is the act of making clear… </li></ul><ul><li>then infinition is the act of making unclear… </li></ul><ul><li>( </li></ul>
  17. 17. Thinking-Fractal? Then infinition is the creation of unclear or “fuzzy” boundaries If definition is the creation of clear boundaries. . . animated gif from
  18. 18. Transitional Moments  Fear <ul><li>“ . . .this discovery of yours will create forgetfulness in the learners' souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external written characters and not remember of themselves. . . . they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.” </li></ul><ul><li>-- Plato. Phaedrus . </li></ul>
  19. 19. Transitional Moments  Fear <ul><li>“ [ Beowulf ] anticipates the advent of an intruding technology that promises to undercut the psychological foundations of an entire way of life.” </li></ul><ul><li>“ [ Beowulf exposes] the effect that the fruits of this technology [of literacy] have on a community structured by the personal immediacy of verbal exchange in a principally oral culture” (329). </li></ul><ul><li>-- Michael Near. &quot;Anticipating Alienation: Beowulf and the Invasion of Literacy.&quot; </li></ul>
  20. 20. Transitional Moments  Fear <ul><li>“ As a cognitive neuroscientist and scholar of reading, I am particularly concerned with the plight of the reading brain as it encounters this technologically rich society . . . the reading brain is slowly becoming endangered - the unforeseen consequences of the transition to a digital epoch that is affecting every aspect of our lives. . .” </li></ul><ul><li>-- Maryanne Wolf. “Learning to Think in a Digital World.” </li></ul>
  21. 21. <ul><li>“ Transitions like the one from print to electronic media do not take place without rippling or, more likely, reweaving the entire social and cultural web. The tendencies outlined above are already at work. We don't need to look far to find their effects. . . . our educational systems are in decline; our students are less and less able to read and comprehend their required texts, and their aptitude scores have leveled off well below those of previous generations.” </li></ul><ul><li>--Sven Birkerts. The Gutenberg Elegies. </li></ul>Transitional Moments  Fear
  22. 22. Electracy: Invitation to Invention <ul><li>“The difficulty of studying our own moment is that we are immersed in it, and everything is in flux.” </li></ul><ul><li>--Greg Ulmer. “The Grammatology of the Future.” p. 139. </li></ul>
  23. 23. References <ul><li>Birkerts, Sven. The Gutenberg Elegies: The Fate of Reading in an Electronic Age. Viewed 1/21/2010. books/nn/bdbirk.htm. </li></ul><ul><li>Near, Michael. &quot;Anticipating Alienation: Beowulf and the Invasion of Literacy.&quot; PMLA 108.2 (March 1993): 320-332. </li></ul><ul><li>Plato. Phaedrus . Viewed 1/20/2010. /phaedrus.html. </li></ul><ul><li>Rice, Jeff. The Rhetoric of Cool: Composition Studies and New </li></ul><ul><li>Media. Carbondale, IL: Southern Illinois UP, 2007. </li></ul><ul><li>Turkle, Sherry. Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet. New </li></ul><ul><li>York: Simon & Schuster, 1995. </li></ul>
  24. 24. References <ul><li>Ulmer, Gregory L. “The Genealogy of Electracy.” Reconstruction 9.2 (2009). </li></ul><ul><li>Viewed 1/20/2010. </li></ul><ul><li>---. “The Grammatology of the Future.” Deconstructing Derrida: Tasks for the New Humanities. Eds. Peter Pericles Trifonas and Michael A. Peters. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005. </li></ul><ul><li>---. Electronic Monuments. Minneapolis, MN: U of Minnesota P, 2005. </li></ul><ul><li>---. Internet Invention: From Literacy to Electracy. New York: Longman Press, 2003. </li></ul><ul><li>Wolf, Maryanne. “Learning to Think in a Digital World.” Boston Globe (5 Sept 2007). Viewed 1/20/2010. /editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2007/09/05/learning_to_think_in_a_digital_world/. </li></ul>