Electrical Literacy

Electrical + Literacy = Electracy

Electracy. The skills and knowledge necessary to communicate effectively over the internet and electronic media.

 Gregory Ulmer looks at grammatology – the history and theory of writing – to form the idea of “electracy.” Thousands of years ago, cultures didn’t have written language. People spoke and communicated via memory. This period is referred to as orality. Later, written symbols were developed in order to keep track of harvests. This eventually escalated to literacy. Now, people could write letters, keep records, and read books. Not everything had to be done from memory. Ulmer says that electracy is the transition from literacy to the digital age.

{For a concise explanation of electracy, check out this Wikipedia article}

The concept of electracy has many ramifications. Ulmer writes that pedagogy – the teaching practices for an idea or concept – must be developed. Teachers and professors can no longer focus solely on formal writing. Today’s education and business culture is built on emails and PowerPoint presentations, not letters (of course, there are exceptions). Thus, the writing styles taught must be updated. Additionally, learning no longer consists solely of students being lectured by teachers. The education process has expanded to students learning from the web and each other.

My daily life, and the lives of many others, is saturated with electracy. As a student, I interact with web content, email, and on electronic media on an hourly basis. I write blogs for class, emails to teachers, search for online articles, and read websites. There is without a doubt a large difference between the literacy involved in books and the electracy involved in online content.

Online content is generally quick and to the point. Fluff is eliminated, paragraphs are succinct, and word count is diminished greatly. Because Internet users rarely read an entire article, articles are short and headlines are bold. Understanding how to deal with these changes and effectively communicate online is part of electracy.

This article from Kevin Kelleher at GIGAOM.com addresses the ways in which the Internet has changed writing from literacy to electracy. A light, quick tone evolved from messaging. Debate skills evolved from comments on videos, posts, and blogs. Twitter made us get our points across in 140 characters or less.

As Kelleher writes, “In all of these (Twitter, comments, texting), we were nudged toward something all writers aspire to: a strong, distinct voice.”

Here are some things to think about:

  1. How has the Internet changed the way we write and interact with others?
  2. What skills are necessary for electracy?
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