Howard Rheingold seems to have become more visible again in my part of the web… he’s popping up on Twitter and has penned some new material – the following excerpt from an essay entitled Participative Pedagogy for a Literacy of Literacies rang a few bells for me and got me wondering about how much teachers and academics are really taking on board the imperatives of engaging with new technology-mediated modalities.
A PARTICIPATIVE PEDAGOGY
To accomplish this attention-turning, we must develop a participative pedagogy, assisted by digital media and networked publics, that focuses on catalyzing, inspiring, nourishing, facilitating, and guiding literacies essential to individual and collective life in the 21st century. Literacies are where the human brain, human sociality and communication technologies meet. We’re accustomed to thinking about the tangible parts of communication media?the devices and networks?but the less visible social practices and social affordances, from the alphabet to TCP/IP, are where human social genius can meet the augmenting power of technological networks. Literacy is the most important method Homo sapiens has used to introduce systems and tools to other humans, to train each other to partake of and contribute to culture, and to humanize the use of instruments that might otherwise enable commodification, mechanization and dehumanization. By literacy, I mean, following on Neil Postman and others, the set of skills that enable individuals to encode and decode knowledge and power via speech, writing, printing and collective action, and which, when learned, introduce the individual to a community. Literacy links technology and sociality. The alphabet did not cause the Roman Empire, but made it possible. Printing did not cause democracy or science, but literate populations, enabled by the printing press, devised systems for citizen governance and collective knowledge creation. The Internet did not cause open source production, Wikipedia or emergent collective responses to natural disasters, but it made it possible for people to act together in new ways, with people they weren’t able to organize action with before, in places and at paces for which collective action had never been possible. Literacies are the prerequisite for the human agency that used alphabets, presses and digital networks to create wealth, alleviate suffering and invent new institutions. If the humans currently alive are to take advantage of digital technologies to address the most severe problems that face our species and the biosphere, computers, telephones and digital networks are not enough. We need new literacies around participatory media, the dynamics of cooperation and collective action, the effective deployment of attention and the relatively rational and critical discourse necessary for a healthy public sphere.
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