Re: Death of Apostrophe/sick hyphen

Subject: Re: Death of Apostrophe/sick hyphen
From: wburns -at- MICRON -dot- COM
Date: Thu, 16 Nov 1995 11:40:03 MDT

Stacey writes:

>I'd appreciate independent research to validate your claim that "GenX seems to
>have given up on books."

>It strikes me as a typically narrowminded boomer put-down that reflects the
>common self-righteous boomer attitude that everyone else is inferior.

Although I probably wouldn't have worded my concerns in the same way as Stacey
"Shoot-from-the-Hip" Kahn did ;-), I agree with her sentiments concerning the
comment on GenX and books. I am not only an avid reader; I'm a student and
teacher of literature. I enjoy using computers, but my life would be very
drab if I could not lose myself in a good book or engage in a bit of scholarly
detective work in the university library.

I can't say that all Boomers have demonstrated the attitude to which Stacey
refers, but I have experienced some initial condescension from older students
in classes and older professionals in this field. I've also encountered a few
GenXers who refuse to listen to the voice of experience and reason.
Narrow-mindedness is not endemic to a single generation.

On a more relevant note, the issue may be that our preferences in literacy may
be changing. In the last fifty years, our culture has become increasingly
more visual. If you take a look at newspapers over the past century, you'll see
that the use of visuals in news for information is far higher now than before.
Walter Ong argued in a recent paper (don't have a citation for you at hand)
that humans have become more visual and were predominantly visual throughout
most of our history. I'm not sure this applies uniformly across cultures, but
it does have considerable support in instructional and performance technology

At a recent seminar with Conrad Gottfredson, I took what he called a visual
literacy test. Everyone performed pretty miserably. The reason, he
indicated, was because visual literacy is a learned skill, just as verbal
literacy is, so it depends upon the receiver's experience with the signs (that
is, images/words) at use. If this is true, then an increase in visual
literacy does not necessarily imply that we are becoming increasingly less
intelligent or capable with communication. It may suggest that we are
becoming more diverse in our communication abilities.

However, increased dependence on visual images can also create problems.
People commonly assume that images are more factual representations of
reality than written accounts. Because images must also have context for
clear communication, because of our common assumptions about images, and
because images can be manipulated so easily outside of their original
contexts, they can be more dangerous. Images are as artificial a medium as
language. (For more on this, you'll have to get a copy of my thesis ;-) .)

Bill Burns *
Assm. Technical Writer/Editor * LIBERTY, n. One of imagination's most
Micron Technology, Inc. * precious possessions.
Boise, ID *
WBURNS -at- VAX -dot- MICRON -dot- COM * Ambrose Bierce

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