Computer-Mediated Communication Magazine / Volume 2, Number 3 / March 1, 1995 / Page 15



by Nancy Kaplan

Literacies: the root term, for my purposes in this essay. A set of technologies and social practices enabling the mental, the oral and the gestural to be detached from the human mind and/or body, to be represented externally, to be stored, to be retrieved, and to be construed.

In the past, literacy has chiefly meant alphabetic literacy. That meaning has dominated because the chief technologies of literacy, especially the early printing press, have privileged the written language over all other forms of semiosis. Let me just assert here what I argue at greater length in a forthcoming paper: that the printing press divorced verbal from iconographic information and representation. This divorce no doubt helped intellectual elites (literati) to consolidate their power and authority over public and authorized discourses.

By literacy, then, I mean any act of semiosis that can be recorded outside of a human body and that can be recalled or conjured up for later or for other use. Such a definition includes visual and (for want of better terminology) non-verbal or gestural or social literacies.

Here are some other key terms I use in this argument:

E-literacies and Elite-racies
Politexts and Politics
Other Cultural Formations

And in case you're wondering what you've stumbled into, here's a brief statement of the argument.

This page is part of the article, "E-literacies: Politexts, Hypertexts and Other Cultural Formations in the Late Age of Print."

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