Be forewarned. This is another John Updike day—when I need to sound so 18th century and anti-new media despite my normal love of technology. Don’t tell me to drink another cup of coffee. I’d go with orange juice, except we’re out of that.
“Applying copyright laws focused on the dominance of text, in an age dominated by audio-visual media is clearly a step in the wrong direction. As the web makes the use of sound and (moving) images accessible to more and more people, the literacy of the age should not be measured in terms of the written word, but instead in the language of the era: video.”
“Literacy” not necessarily “usage”
Larry Lessig is full of turds. Yes, I get his main point—Hollywood shouldn’t micromanage usage; we need our freedom. I’m with Lessig so far. But would he kindly stop using the word “literacy” and replace it with a term such as “dominant means of communicating”? Do not confuse “literacy” with “usage.” In fact, even on the Net, text still prevails if we include instant messaging and e-mail.
I’m all in favor of “video literacy” and phrases of that nature, as long as an appropriate word precedes “literacy.” But, please, the number one definition of “literacy” is exactly what the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language says in its first definition: “The condition or quality of being literate, especially the ability to read and write.”
Hijacking naked “literacy”
Granted, a note in the same dictionary says: “More recently, the meanings of the words literacy and illiteracy have been extended from their original connection with reading and literature to any body of knowledge. For example, ‘geographic illiterates’ cannot identify the countries on a map, and ‘computer illiterates’ are unable to use a word-processing system. All of these uses of literacy and illiteracy are acceptable.” But did you notice? A particular word, related to a specific field, appears in front of variants of “literacy.” The naked word “literary,” in my opinion, should still apply just to reading and writing. I resent the multimedia crowd’s hijacking of the word. This is not good news for advocates of e-books, even if, yes, most of us are probably looking forward to the multimedia variety for use in areas such as entertainment and education, especially of the disabled.
I love Web audio and video and the rest, but I’d hate to see the word “literacy” stripped of its traditional meaning—whether to sell more Web cams or even to fight Hollywood-bought copyright law. Hello, William Safire? This battle is worthy of a column if you haven’t written one already.
Speaking of literacy in a truly old-fashioned way: Yes, the TeleBlog comes with barbarities for free. Without real-time copy editing, most blogs inherently are not Safire columns.