The Future of Literacy

With the rise of the newest forms of media, the traditional forms of written and spoken communication become gradually more complex and intertwined. In an examination of the World Wide Web, it is clear that both written and spoken communication see new light in the forms of written blogs and online videos through websites such as Youtube. Although both forms of communication hold great power of its readers and viewers, one form of communication is clearly superior to the other. In today’s society, the nature of the written word has greater power and potential over the viewing and listening of speeches and the spoken word.
The power of written communication lies in its ability to make inferences and judgments about what is being conveyed without hindrance. If you are a reading a document by yourself, you are not looking at someone telling you the message. In the form of the latter, this message can be twisted and distorted from sources that originate outside the context of the message being conveyed. Facial expressions and appearance of the person speaking the message for example might cause the audience to develop a far different interpretation of the message as opposed to reading the written version instead. By forcing the audience to read and comprehend information for themselves through the written word, they are able to develop their own meanings without dealing with another potential bias in the form of the speaker producing the message verbally.
Even amidst the new forms of viewing the written word, it will still remain a critical and important avenue of communication. As Howard Gardner points out in his article on, “Even in the new digital media, it’s essential to be able to read and write fluently and, if you want to capture people’s attention, to write well.”(Gardner) As the ability to view and comprehend the written word increased, Gardner emphasizes that despite the changing times in how we view it, the written word will remain important, and that “the imaginative spheres and real-world needs that all those written words address remain.”(Gardner) The written word has become and remained a key method of communication, and one that is commonly relied upon.
Although speech communication is a valuable method of communication, the changing faces of media cause it to become downplayed when compared to its written counterpart. While speech communication brings with it an instant message that is more easily comprehendible by the average person, this advantage becomes one of its greatest weaknesses. The speed of which someone can get and comprehend the communication of speech can lead to impatience, as Susan Jacoby illustrates in an article on According to Jacoby, such an impatience can lead to quicker, dumbed-down messages as “video consumers become progressively more impatient with the process of acquiring information through written language, all politicians find themselves under great pressure to deliver their messages as quickly as possible”(Jacoby) By increasing the speed of speech communication, the major points of a message can be seriously toned down or even lost in the rush to maintain the listener’s attention.
Another disadvantage that speech communication brings when compared to written communication is its inability to easily reference specific points between differing pieces. Jacoby notes this through a quote by Caleb Crain: “A comparison of two video reports, on the other hand, is cumbersome. Forced to choose between conflicting stories on television, the viewer falls back on hunches, or on what he believed before he started watching.”(Jacoby) Going back to examine major points between two videos or people talking is not as easy as examining similar points on a written document. With a written document that you have read, you know where to look. On the other hand with a video or speech you have to move between points to find that particular spot, or if that’s not possible hope you took good (written) notes. Certainly a written transcript of what was said would be nice to reference.
Written and speech communications both offer differing yet informative ways of viewing and comprehending information. In today’s society however, with the internet rapidly refining these forms of communication, the written word presents itself as a superior method of communication. While you struggle to remember what was said or attempt to find that time in the video you just watched, the written document will still be waiting for you where you left it.

Works Cited:

Gardner, Howard. “The End of Literacy? Don’t Stop Reading..” 17 Feb 2008. The Washington Post. .

Jacoby, Susan. “The Dumbing Of America.” 17 Feb 2008. The Washington Post. .



Filed under Writing

3 responses to “The Future of Literacy

  1. easieli

    As you can see from my blog, I agree with you that writing is superior to speech. You do a good job demonstrating ways writing is better, but I am a little curious how you would explain the trend of videos and speech replacing writing as the preferred form of communication for many. Do you think it’s just because people are lazy? Dumb? What?

  2. Rachael

    Your blog included several great points which supported your opinion- that writing is far more superior to speech. I liked how you used specific quotes from the Washington Post articles. Although I did not see any reference to any of the textbook articles. I did enjoy reading your blog since I have the same opinion as you and for most of the same reasons.

  3. Evan Roseberry

    Hey Matt. Thanks for your comment. To answer your question, I’m not completely sure where the current trends will take us. I’m not usually one for speculation; however, I believe eventually people will be able to easily sort through the massive amounts of information currently bombarding them, we just haven’t learned to do so yet. As I said, we are in a transitional period in which we are still getting accustomed to new media and technology, but once we have reached a solid level of adjustment the effects can only be positive.

    To comment on your post, I can see your point of view and you supported your thesis well; however, I find that written communication can often lead to miscommunication. I believe word of mouth allows the communicator to be more expressive, thus leaving the viewer with a more easily interpreted message. True, this may stem from more overt bias, but written word contains bias as well.

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