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Literacy = ! { an on-off switch }

Literacy is not an “on / off” switch.

That statement seems quite simple and straightforward, but it can be written in a variety of ways … and what’s even more astonishing is: while the proposition itself seems quite obvious (at least if you spend at least a little longer than a second to think about it), in almost every case of statistical data-collection of literacy, the approach is nonetheless to think of literacy as if it were indeed either of two cases — literate or illiterate.

Most people do not realize how grossly absurd this is.

Several decades ago, some people became somewhat familar with the idea of different modes of literacy — for example “numeracy” (for numbers and / or mathematics) or “media literacy” (although this is not clearly defined, the common thread here probably has to do with some general or vague notion of publishing) or a wide variety of other “kinds” of literacy.

In a field which came to be known as “sociolinguistics”, some people differentiated levels of language and associated these with sociological factors or social classes. Generally, the thinking was along the lines of “development”, whereby the low level of development was considered underdeveloped and a high level of development was seen as elaborated, academic and sometimes specialized. That all kinds or levels of literacy are appropriate for their correspondingly appropriate communities, contexts, conditions and such was by and large neglected (perhaps one prominent exception is the field of pragmatics, another sub-specialty of general linguistics which in this case seems vaguely linked to “game theory”, a quite sophisticated mathematical analysis of social behavior).

Yet for anyone even remotely familar with the wide range of language and linguistic ability across the entire span of the extremely vast Internet, it ought to feel odd how rudimentary our familiarity with a reasonable notion of literacy (or lack thereof) is.

For the initiated, I could simply point out that there are still people who exist “out there” (“in the wild“) who do not realize that propaganda continues to exist to this day. Most of these people are simply naive, yet at some point such naiveté borders on ignorance. I guess this point is probably closely associated with “enlightenment”, especially the notion of “enlightened self-interest” (brought to us by Adam Smith). The uninitiated will probably remain in their un-woke dazed and confused state of sheepish consumerism — there is unfortunately little hope for such numbskulls. Unless (fill in that famous Dr. Seuss story here).

Well, to finish off my “good deed for the day” I will simply point out that any enlightened notion of “target audience” requires some more enlightenment with respect to literacy. If your notion of “fishing where the fish are” caters to unenlightened worlds involving gobbledygook like “Google” or “FaceBook” (see also “Hope & Change: Flipping the F-word & Removing the Old-Fashioned R-word” [ ] ), then I’m guessing you need to focus on relatively less sophisticated target audiences, with somewhat challenged levels and kinds of literacy. My hunch is that any “SEO” / “SEM” “expert” (WTF kind of “expertise” is this?) worth their salt is already acutely aware of this with respect to the suckers they want to catch, but perhaps far fewer are aware that they themselves are also suckers to someone, something, … maybe even the big G itself?

“UNLESS” image via “Dr. Seuss Tells the Sermon on the Mount, Part 2: The Lorax” [ ]

By New Media Works

I'm just a regular person ;) If you want to know more, pls send me a msg -- thanks! :D


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