Essay about Technology and Literacy

1668 Words 7 Pages
Technology and Literacy

According to Eric Havelock, “Greek literacy changed not only the means of communication, but also the shape of the Greek consciousness. The Greek story is self-contained, yet the crisis in the communication which it describes as taking place in antiquity acquires a larger dimension when measured against what appears to be a similar crisis in modernity” (17). In developing his conviction, Havelock focuses on the works of Homer and Hesiod:

As written, there is no previous recorded preparation for them. Virgil, Dante, Milton had their predecessors. [. . .] They have genius, but it is not unaided, not unique, not isolated. But the Iliad and Odyssey [and] Hesiod’s Theogony and Works and Days [. .
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He adds that the works provide a “window on a cultural process of transition, in which collision and contradiction are of the essence. The Muse of orality, [. . .] learn[ed] to read and write—but at the same time she also continue[d] to sing” (22). And even after the process had been completed, “The Muse never became the discarded mistress of Greece. She learned to write and read while still continuing to sing” (23). Havelock’s theory offers possible insight into the changes that are taking place today as modern technology makes its impact on literacy.

In “From Pencils to Pixels,” Dennis Baron argues that “[. . .] writing is always first and foremost a technology, a way of engineering materials in order to accomplish an end” (71). Baron’s claim seems to support Havelock’s theory in that Greek literacy came into being as a means of recording Greece’s orality, but by Plato’s time writing had become a means of “formulat[ing] a new conceptual type of language” (Havelock 29). Can modern advocates of communications technologies also assume then that writing is undergoing a similar change today? Baron goes on to say that “We often lose sight of writing as technology, until [. . .] a new technology comes along and we are thrown into excitement and confusion as we try it on, try it out, reject it, and then adapt it to our lives—and, of course, adapt our
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