Tuesday, September 7, 2010

I found the reading on "From Memory to Written Record" very interesting. It's one of those things we really don't think about now days. When I hear someone say "there is no written record" on this or that, I just think no one bothered recording it. I don't even think about the fact that it was before people kept written records, or, perhaps even before people knew how to read or write!

What I found even more interesting in this reading was the fact that the division of classes was just as prominent in 1066 as they are today. The same "privileged" classes were feeding their own, trying to widen the chasm between themselves and the so-called "illiterate".

What is it about groups or classes of people that give them the desire to prove themselves superior to other groups or classes of people? And who has bestowed upon themselves the authority to define what the words "literate" and "illiterate" mean? Language has always defined literacy, and by that I mean the common language and principles of a society.

Taking that question a step further in reflection of Fusser's article, if we all were to depend solely on electronic memory to perform mechanical calculations such as arithmetic, writing, grammar, spelling, etc. how will the word "illiterate" be defined at that point? And will only those who are skilled with computers be considered literate?

Seemingly, it would no longer be about knowing how to write properly or spell properly because the computer will do all that for you. But the computers of today have already proven they cannot always calculate everything properly. What will happen to language if spelling errors are not caught by this electronic memory. Will it become a muddled mess of illiteracy?

And how will this electronic memory effect education? Will schools stop teaching students how to write and spell words correctly? Will they stop teaching math? Will the necessary foundations of knowledge that Socrates explained to Phaedrus, become obsolete and unimportant?

If this were to happen, the chasm between literacy and illiteracy will surely widen even further and favor only those who can afford these devices with electronic memory...and for those who cannot, I guess they will remain illiterate, at least by someone's definition. A tragic regression in this great time of progress.

(And yes, I did run my electronic spell check on this blog entry).


  1. A very thoughtful response to Clanchy and Flusser, Carol. I wonder what you think of the Google Scribe announcement in light of your reaction to Flusser? And what of his assertion that the externalization of memory will free our minds for higher, creative functions?

  2. Please go on, what do you think would happen if we didn't focus on spelling/grammar/etc. Maybe these are just irrelevant rules that we shouldn't "waste" our brain power thinking about. What do you think?

  3. I will have to check out the Google Scribe announcement. I'm Old School and all this makes me nervous and confused.

  4. Kim....now that I review my posting, I realize what what I was saying in regards to Plato. The point I got out of his reading was that you have to have a knowledgeable foundation...whether it's for rhetoric or rocket science. And, that Phaedra's foundation had leaks in it.

  5. You make a really valid point about how access to devices that facilitate electronic memory would redefine what it means to be literate and what it means to be illiterate. Suddenly being “illiterate” would mean having to actually learn to spell correctly or write correctly as you put it.

    This would be like knowing the necessary formula to perform an equation as opposed to just knowing how to enter the equation into a calculator. It almost seems backwards that the ones who simply know that a device works are considered more literate than the ones who actually know how the device works.

  6. I agree in that it will probably get to a point where the people who are "more literate" are the people that can afford electronic memory, and yes it would have to be redefined. I too will have to check out this Google Scribe thing. I hope that everything won't go to electronic spell check and writing cause than I'd be out of a job (and the world would still be poorly edited because computers aren't perfect).