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Literacy: The Shift From Reading to Writing

Jul - 25 - 2013
Nicole C. Engard

Next was Literacy: The Shift From Reading to Writing presented by Robert Lefkowitz. I missed the very beginning cause I ended up in a talk about JavaScript … not that it wouldn’t have been a good talk … just not for me ;)

So let’s start with what I heard on the way in … code is written to be read! So you need to make sure that your code is readable. Robert talked about ‘Literacy and Learning’ by Deborah Brandt in which the author talked about the origin of literacy and why literacy was important. Reading was important to be able to read the word of God and/or participate in government, but writing was scary. For example in 1853 it became illegal to teach slaves to write because this could be dangerous. At that time they were allowed to read because they needed to learn the word of God – of course that changed later on when it became illegal for them to read and/or write.

So the four ages of literacy are:

  • No readers, no writers (thru Socrates)
  • Few reader, few writers (Plato thru Gutenberg)
  • Many reader, few writers (Gutenberg thru Tomlinson/Ayyadurai/Winer/Hillebrand/Jobs/Zuckerberg/Dorsey)
  • Many reader, many writers (post-Jobs)

So now the way we’re reading has changed! But we’re writing more than we ever did in the past.

Shortly after the introduction of writing, craft literacy came on the scene – people writing about their craft. Today we have programmers writing and then the end user coming in and adding little mods/edits etc. “Recent studies reveal that an important aspect of end user computing is the emergence of programming communities of cooperating users that develop e when a program is used by a group of people.”

In programming we have a few number of writers (programmers) to readers (users) – but that’s changing. More and more people are copying from others and piecing things together – but what most people argue is that it’s better to write your own cause then you not only create but you learn. I’d argue that copying can also help you learn – as long as what you’re copying is written right and well.

I’m not sure that I caught everything that Robert talked about because I was tracking down the resources and big words he was using :) but hopefully this is a clear enough summary for you all.


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