Design a site like this with
Get started

More about Modes and Levels of Literacy

I have mentioned before that it is wrong to contrast literacy with illiteracy (see e.g. “Literacy = ! { an on-off switch }“). Instead, I believe there are many modes and levels of literacy.

Take, for example, language written on paper. If someone were to call a person who could read either cuneiform written on tablets or hieroglyphics painted on stones illiterate (simply because they cannot read something written on paper), that would be wrong, wouldn’t it? In my book it would be.

Likewise (in my book), a person who understands the significance of a crosswalk is more literate then who does not understand its significance — and I think this is also another kind of literacy. Literacy is very much intertwined with other kinds of technology, too. For example: a door knob today (usually) functions quite differently than a door knob did several centuries ago. Knowing how to use doors is something people generally learn at an early age, and at some point this knowledge is simply second nature.

In many cases, understanding technology is not simply a matter of the technological knowledge being either present or absent. It is not impossible to ride a street bike in the mountains; it is not impossible to ride a mountain bike in the streets … yet they are simply designed for different purposes (and are thus more appropriate for such different terrains).

I guess the roman alphabet was designed for Latin, but it is also used for English. Knowing the alphabet, however, is a far cry from understanding a language. Languages definitely differ from one another in very significant ways that cannot be captured via a simplistic robotic translation machine. Time and again I am frustrated (for example) that there seems to be no simple translation from English to Germany for the English term “literacy” — “Alphabetisierung” simply fails to capture any of the repercussions and/or implications of what it means to be literate (i.e., in the sense of being “versed“). There seems to be no contrasting terminology corresponding to the polar opposites “literate” vs. “illiterate”. In German, there is however a term “Medienkompetenz” (yet oddly it is almost never used, since it seems to be perceived as a rather academic issue). Ultimately, I guess such differences in languages boil down to distinctions which are either made or not made by different societies: English and German are different languages mostly because English and Germans are different people.

Such differences can also be observed similarly in a sort of seamless narrowing of focus on such sub-languages as dialect, jargon and similar sociolinguistic genres of language. A fine example of this was presented in the movie Idiocracy, such that the main character’s language is often interpreted by others as stilted and thus he is treated like an outcast.

People who are unaware of such nuances differentiating various groups (and sub-groups) can (I guess) be easily mislead to believe that translation is a simple thing. If someone lacks the sensitivity to understand that someone who does not speak the same language will often be rejected and the gobbledygook they talk will likewise be rejected (both in short shrift) … then the supposedly “simple” matter of translation will fail miserably.

I have really only scratched the surface here. Paper literacy is on the verge of obsolescence. Online literacy is virtually non-existent. There is a very deep digital divide, and it has nothing to do with levels of wealth. I think I need to address this next.

By New Media Works

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

1 comment

Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: