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Electracy describes the kind of “literacy” or skill and facility necessary to exploit the full communicative potential of new electronic media such as multimedia, hypermedia, social software, and virtual worlds. According to theorist Gregory Ulmer, electracy “is to digital media what literacy is to print.” It encompasses the broader cultural, institutional, pedagogical, and ideological implications inherent in the transition from a culture of print literacy to a culture saturated with electronic media. “Electracy” is the term he gives to what is resulting from this major transition that our society is undergoing. The term is a portmanteau word, combining "electricity" with "trace," to allude to one of the fundamental terms used by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida to name the relational spacing that enables and delimits any signification in any medium (which is to say that it operates in orality and literacy as much as in electracy). Usage parallels "literacy": a person may be literate or illiterate, electrate or anelectrate.
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As such, electracy denotes a broad spectrum of research possibilities including the history and invention of writing and mnemonic practices, the epistemological and ontological changes resulting from such practices, the sociological and psychological implications of a networked culture, and the pedagogical implementation of practices derived from such explorations.
Ulmer writes of electracy:
What literacy is to the analytical mind, electracy is to the affective body: a prosthesis that enhances and augments a natural or organic human potential. Alphabetic writing is an artificial memory that supports long complex chains of reasoning impossible to sustain within the organic mind. Digital imaging similarly supports extensive complexes of mood atmospheres beyond organic capacity. Electrate logic proposes to design these atmospheres into affective group intelligence. Literacy and electracy in collaboration produce a civilizational left-brain right-brain integration. If literacy focused on universally valid methodologies of knowledge (sciences), electracy focuses on the individual state of mind within which knowing takes place (arts).
Ulmer’s work benefits from considering other historical moments of radical technological change (such as the profound changes resulting from the inventions of the alphabet, writing, and the printing press), and as such his work is grammatological insofar as it derives and extrapolates a methodology from the history of writing and mnemonic practices. His career can be encapsulated as an attempt to invent a rhetoric for electronic media.
Ulmer introduced electracy in Teletheory (1989), and it began to be noted in the scholarship as early as 1997.  It has been regarded as among the "most prominent" contemporary designations for what Walter J. Ong once described as a "secondary orality" that will eventually supplant print literacy As James Inman writes, "It is important to distinguish electracy from other terms, such as computer-based literacy, Internet literacy, digital literacy, electronic literacies, metamedia literacy, and even cyber-punk literacy. None of these other terms have the breadth electracy does as a concept, and none of them draw their ontology from electronic media exclusively" . Some scholars have viewed the electracy paradigm, along with other "apparatus theories" such as Ong's, with skepticism, arguing that they are "essentialist" or "determinist."
Electracy and pedagogy
Ulmer’s work has implications for the practice of education as well. Co-author of a textbook for freshman English courses, Ulmer develops undergraduate and graduate level courses which incorporate his theories and invite students into the process of inventing new practices and genres.
Alan Clinton, in a review of Internet Invention, writes that “Ulmer’s pedagogy ultimately levels the playing field between student and teacher”  Academic Lisa Gye also recognizes the pedagogical implications of Ulmer’s work:
The transition from a predominantly literate culture to an electronic culture is already engendering changes in the ways in which we think, write and exchange ideas. Ulmer has been concerned with the kinds of changes that take place as a result of this transition and his primary concern has been a pedagogical one – that is, he is interested in how learning is transformed by the shift from the apparatus of literacy to the apparatus of what he comes to term ‘electracy’.
Electracy as an educational aim has been recognized by scholars in several fields, including English composition and rhetoric, literary and media criticism, digital media and art, and architecture Mikesch Muecke explains that "Gregory Ulmer's ideas on electracy provide … a model for a new pedagogy where learning is closer to invention than verification"
Ulmer himself writes:
Electrate pedagogy is based in art/aesthetics as relays for operating new media organized as a prosthesis for learning any subject whatsoever. The near absence of art in contemporary schools is the electrate equivalent of the near absence of science in medieval schools for literacy. The suppression of empirical inquiry by religious dogmatism during the era sometimes called the "dark ages" (reflecting the hostility of the oral apparatus to literacy), is paralleled today by the suppression of aesthetic play by empirical utilitarianism (reflecting the hostility of the literate apparatus to electracy). The ambivalent relation of the institutions of school and entertainment today echoes the ambivalence informing church-science relations throughout the era of literacy.
Ulmer's educational methods fit into a broader paradigm shift in pedagogical theory and practice known as constructivism. He discusses the relationship between pedagogy and electracy at length in an interview with Sung-Do Kim published in 2005.
|This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Electracy". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.|