Upon discussing the niceties of a nook versus kindle, a classmate of mine confessed that over her Thanksgiving break she “watched more movies on her nook than read actual books.”
Interesting. But not all that surprising.
Short of walking around with a blindfold over our eyes, even those of us who like to think we are avid readers can’t escape the reality of our culture. We are, “Screen Literate,” as Kevin Kelly would say based his 2008 article in The New York Times Magazine, “Becoming Screen Literate.” In his piece, he muses about the shift in our culture as technology progresses and explains, “We are now in the middle of a second Gutenberg shift — from book fluency to screen fluency, from literacy to visuality.” He discusses the ways in which technology has enabled us to become literate in one media — the written word — to approaching literacy in another.
While Kelly’s article was written four whole years ago—a lifetime in the technological years of our fast paced world— it remains entirely relevant and a fascinating read. But the piece leaves me wanting of more than just an analysis of where we have been and how the tools we have developed will move us to something else. I want to know “why,” on a personal level. What about us as human beings has caused us to latch on to the fleeting, moving images on a screen in less than a century?
Our world here revolves around screens.
TV’s flash in the dining commons, the library and labs are chock full of computer monitor after computer monitor, and a stroll around the hub will reveal hundreds of laptop screens, or else students absorbed in their smart phones. Obviously Kelly was on to something.
My ultimate thoughts on “Becoming Screen Literate,” the feelings that settled down deep into my belly as I pondered human nature like the philosopher or scientist I’m not, are as follows:
As human beings we feed off of real life interaction.
We communicate through spoken words and body language, our hand gestures and facial expressions and the rigidity of our spines all as crucial to communication as the stringing together of subjects and verbs. We experience the world in motion and flying colors and scenes whizzing by out windows of cars or as we walk down the street. We are programmed to absorb the world in this manner.
The written word was a technology developed for communication when there was no other alternative. No means of “showing” existed in terms of capturing images long term, so the art of “telling” through print came about.
Clearly as someone who is pouring her own words on to this page, I consider the written word to be important, and personally one of the best ways I can express myself.
But when given the opportunity to absorb large amounts of information through the pages of a textbook or in the form of moving pictures and objects, chances are I will opt for the latter. And this isn’t just because I’m a visual learner.
So why then? Because on some primal level, it is a better imitation of the way in which we normally experience the world. The combination of visuals plus auditory stimulation matches the same experience I get when I walk back into my dorm and chat with my roommate about our days. It’s more natural.
When the first talking motion pictures came about, it was so very fascinating and enthralling for this very reason.
The idea that a form of communication could imitate so very closely our personal interactions in the world was, as I imagine, earth shattering and mind blowing. And it’s no wonder we’ve never looked back. So here we come “Screen Literacy.”
Caroline Fenlin is a freshman majoring in graphic design and is a Daily Collegian columnist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.