Friday, February 11, 2005

Converging / Diverging Literacies

Friday, mid-February
by mvs

I am looking forward to this weekend, except for the rain. OK, because of the rain, I cannot get into the garden and turn the earth. I'll start seed in the greenhouse, instead. That'll eat up an hour. And I'll stare longingly at the muddy earth and its as yet unborn lettuce.

I'll head into the house, to the computer. My aunt and dad celebrated their birthdays last week, 70 and 83 years old. I am burning DVDs and printing jewel cases for the whole family. And, because it's a cold wet grey day, I'll get the fireplace going and play the piano.

Then I'll start screaming with rage. Damn, why can't my fingers read the little black marks on the music as well as my lips can read the little black marks on a novel. Reading music, playing it on the piano, is a literacy I have only minimal competence, run hot and cold, but generally, I stumble on something hard. Like html coding. Damn, what a pain in the next, web literacy can become.

Unlike words on paper. I can read anything and make sense of stuff in several languages, even stuff chipped on stone so long as it's greek to me. Imagine, some vato back in Egypt, chipping away at the rosetta stone. He or she was talking to me. I've read his stuff, the middle part at any rate.

Burning DVDs, editing digital video, now there's a literacy few can lay claim to. Anyone can pick up a camera and pull the trigger. And then? If you're not DV-literate, your stuff just twists slowly, slowly in the wind.

More and more, people need to be able to think through their fingers. The knowledge economy demands it. Gad, I love my word processor. It's thinking through your fingers. I spent half a year in the Army working an old manual Royal typewriter. Gad, I loved that machine, the solid crunch of the keys, the snap snap snap as the letters hit the ribbon hit the paper. Or cutting a stencil in preparation for running off several hundred copies of my Battalion newspaper. But I don't miss it because I have my Word Perfect.

So here's a Friday salute to the old literacies. And a tip of the ol' cachuca to the challenge of new literacies and another week sweating them off the theory and into the fingers. An old fart like me, maybe I don't really need all that technology. But how about the kids?


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