Writing More Than Ever

By Tom Johnson, September 21, 2009 1:43 PM

Andrea Lunsford, Director of the Writing and Rhetoric program at Stanford University (click here, scroll down), contends that technology is making writing more prevalent than it’s ever been before:

I think we’re in the midst of a literacy revolution the likes of which we haven’t seen since Greek civilization.

Lunsford said this after reviewing data from the Stanford Study of Writing, a research project that surveyed the writing of almost 15,000 incoming university students over five years.  She found that today’s students write more than any students to come before them. The reason: online communication is text dependent, and much social activity carries on over the Internet. The survey revealed that 38% of students’ writing comes outside of the classroom, most of it online.

Clive Thompson of Wired magazine puts this into perspective:

It’s almost hard to remember how big a paradigm shift this is. Before the Internet came along, most Americans never wrote anything, ever, that wasn’t a school assignment. Unless they got a job that required producing text (like in law, advertising, or media), they’d leave school and virtually never construct a paragraph again.

Is the endless stream of tweets, blog updates and text messages of any value, intellectual or literary? Lunsford’s research indicates it is:

Lunsford’s team found that the students were remarkably adept at what rhetoricians call kairos—assessing their audience and adapting their tone and technique to best get their point across. The modern world of online writing, particularly in chat and on discussion threads, is conversational and public, which makes it closer to the Greek tradition of argument than the asynchronous letter and essay writing of 50 years ago.

What do u think?

3 Responses to “Writing More Than Ever”

  1. Julie Bolling says:

    I never thought about how much writing students do now as compared to pre-technology times. When I think about it, students should be more in tune with the audience and using appropriate tone. I think the area that suffers most is the grammatical side. I received a text from my nephew a while ago and I could barely read it because it contained so many spelling mistakes. He is 12 years old!

  2. Kim Thomson says:

    I agree. I love that technology encourages students to write. I think, however, many of them struggle with shifting from a conversational email or text to a friend to a more formalized writing style geared to a different audience. The power of writing is there if we can channel it for good!

  3. Tom Johnson says:

    Writing to a context — the shift from informal email to formal communications — is something all writers have to learn. It’s a discipline, an awareness of audience and desired effect.

    It seems to me that every one of those informal communications is a teaching opportunity. How would this communication be different if it were aimed at…fill in the blank: a prospective employer, a political rival, a disinterested public audience?

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Panorama Theme by Themocracy