The Age of “Electracy”

With the Internet penetrating through so many devices of daily use, we can very aptly call this generation a “Technology Age.”

Greg Ulmer, an enthusiast on the history and theory of writing, has coined another term to describe the current era: “Electracy.” According to Ulmer, the precursor of this movement was “literacy” (writing), which follows the era of “orality” (religion). Each of these movements at one point dominated the means of which we communicated with each other.

Ulmer explains that electracy is different from the other two movements because it functions “not through written words but recorded images.” These images enable us to both clearly present problems and empathize with each other.

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In my experience, I have understood current events better when they were shared and commented on by my Facebook friends. According to the Pew Research Center, millions of other adults in the U.S. have had a similar experience. We can see by the chart below that in 2013, over 60% of adults used Facebook. Of that percentage, 30% of them got news from that site. When we see how the news is affecting the lives of people close to us, we are more curious about the overall impact of an event. In the data that the Pew Research Center compiled, there was a high correlation between a news event shared on Facebook and the number of visitors to news sites concerning that topic.

Ulmer also suggests that as our generation progresses through the electracy movement, we should make the most of technology as a tool for teaching and learning (“pedagogy”). Chris Rieldel listed the 10 major technology trends in education based on recent data of schools in the U.S. Among items on the list are increased use of video for classwork and homework, online learning, and the allowance of laptops and tablets in the classroom. More people are also taking into consideration their “business image” as presented through social media. Young adults applying for jobs are growing more cautious about certain pictures, videos, and links posted to their social media sites, knowing that online profiles could be viewed by future employers. Likewise, businesses themselves are now more aware the images they project to the public.

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Ulmer characterizes the “axis,” or focal point, of electracy as “joy/sadness” due to the constant flow of images communicated digitally. While emotions do play a major role in how digital media is presented, can we really say that joy and sadness are the two extremes? Also, while we do live in an era of electracy, does this necessarily mean that literacy and orality are obsolete?


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