What is literacy? A deep and amazing process which enables a reader or writer to create, perceive and participate in worlds of thought across time and place. Here minds have participated and evolved since pre-history. Listings just don’t do it.
Now that the contents of publications can be searched by word or work groupings on a massive scale, we feel we have knowledge nailed – computers win as the texts of the world become an Alexandria of wisdom.
These word fragments mean as much to us as the letter “a” or “t” would. The process can be seen as a kind of alphabetization of words. There is no context or meaning to this kind of information. Instead, we have more fragmentation. We think that by listing and accessing all documents which include the word “Alexandria” we can have an accumulation that will yield the knowledge of Alexandria’s burned libraries. But if we look at the process used for this, we could just as easily be listing all words that begin with the letter “w” – an interesting exercise, for those who enjoy reading the dictionary.
Of course it’s great to be able to have info at your fingertips, to catalyze more cross-references, more awareness of similarities and differences. But will this process contribute to the continued development of thought-worlds for generations to come?
In a way, these listings could be killing off the fairies. They could be the death of the rich inner thought world that literacy creates. They are replacing resonant meaning with searchable content.
How do we develop and enable literacy in such an environment?