STATE COLLEGE, PA – In my keynote address at the inaugural Liberal Arts Scholarship and Technology Summit, I discuss how the transition from print literacy to digital literacy is transforming the nature of academic scholarship.

[The live stream recording of the event can be seen below.]

The presentation is divided into two parts. The first part focuses on the theoretical background that helps us put the transformation of literacy through which we are living into a wider context. In the second part, I focus on a few of the ways I have sought to integrate digital technologies into my scholarly practices.

The theoretical background begins with a discussion of what Lars Sauerberg has called the “Gutenberg Parenthesis,” suggesting by this term a contained period of literacy characterized by the dominance of the printed book. I use Thomas Pettitt’s lecture at the 2010 conference at the MIT Communications Forum to emphasize that the parenthetical period was no mere digression, but added substantively to the history of literacy.

After pointing briefly to how pre-literate oral cultures undertook many of the practices we now find in digital culture–remixing, borrowing, creatively changing and modifying stories for particular audiences–I turn to Walter Ong’s book, Orality and Literacy, to suggest the manner in which print culture values the ideals of completeness, originality and creativity in ways that gave rise to the idea of authorial genius that continues to determine how we think about scholarship and scholars.

In the second part of the talk, I illustrate how I have sought to use digital literacy to reinforce and amplify those values of print literacy worth retaining–the established practices of peer review, caring attention to detail and the permanence of books. I tell the story of my own use of digital media for scholarship, focusing on how I used Diigo to annotate and respond to a recent review of my book in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review, and how some of my colleagues, notably Rose Cherubin from George Mason University, added substantively to that digital discussion.

I talked also about the Digital Dialogue podcast to suggest how digital media can be used to create new print scholarship.

From Sauerberg:
In a cognitive context the mass-produced and mass distributed book has been of the greatest significance for the way we approach the world. In the transition from the printed book to digitized textuality the mode of cognition is being moved from a metaphorics of linearity and reflection to a-linearity and co-production of “reality.” This means moving from the rationality accompanied by the printed book to an altogether different way of processing, characterized by interactivity and much faster pace. The book as privileged mode of cognition is, it seems, being marginalized and transformed (Sauerberg, 79)
From Ong:

“Print encourages a sense of closure, a sense that what is found in a text has been finalized, has reached a state of completion … Print culture gave birth to the romantic notions of ‘originality’ and ‘creativity’, which set apart an individual work from other works even more…” (Ong, 132- 133).

From Carson:

An individual who lives in an oral culture uses his senses differently than one who lives in a literate culture, and with that different sensual deployment comes a different way of conceiving his own relations with his environment, a different conception of his body and a different conception of his self (Eros the Bittersweet, 43).


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