| Plato argued against the first structural shift from speech to speech-print on the grounds that we will lose our memory. He was right. Few of us can recite the Odyssey word-by-word as many of his contemporaries could. Most of us decided to subcontract that function out to the artificial memory in books and photographs. The resistance to the second shift still continues, especially within the academy which is still largely based on the first two generations of media - talk-and-chalk. However, it is unlikely that it can continue to resist the third structural shift. This one-two punch of two structural shifts coming rapidly one after the other will be difficult to resist. "Rapid" is, of course, a relative term - those two shifts are rapid relative to the long period of time between the first and second structural shifts. During that period, print acquired a hegemony in the academy. Universities are still focussed on fifteenth-century technology and have so far resisted the electric revolution at the beginning and the electronic revolution at the end of this century.|
Broadcast educators have an important role in persuading our colleagues to incorporate the third and fourth generations. One strategy is to explore the third generation of video and the fourth generation of multimedia by analogy with the second generation of print. The unfamiliar can be illuminated by analogy with the familiar. The danger inherent in this approach, however, is that we carry the analogy too far. Analogies are most illuminating when they break down. For example, the second generation concept of "literacy" may be inappropriate in the fourth generation. When we learn to drive a car, we have not acquired "car literacy"; when we learn to drive a computer, perhaps we need not talk of "computer literacy". That is, just as we learn to use the car as a tool and thus acquire a skill useful in the industrial society, so we learn to use the computer as a tool and thus acquire a skill useful in the post-industrial society. Whereas the car enables us to drive around in physical space, the computer enables us to "drive around" in cyberspace. Does the concept of literacy add anything to this statement? Literacy may apply to mechanics (the programmers who must learn computer languages to tinker under the hood) but not to drivers. Scholarship involves much more than the skill of encoding and decoding linguistic codes.
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