News of the written word’s demise has been greatly exaggerated — though it may not turn up as often on your parents’ printed paper pages.
Literature is being tailored to fit the dimensions of technology — making works great (and not-so-great) available on computers, cell phones and mobile devices, using text messages, Twitter, RSS feeds and installments delivered via e-mail.
In the United States, new technologies and diverse media are being used to teach literacy. Ohio University students are looking at how video gaming can to teach basic reading and writing skills, reports the Chilliocothe Gazette, while an article in the Poughkeepsie Journal adds graphic novels and comic books to the list of teaching tools.
But most of the electronic focus is still on high-end consumers with their array of mobile tools, reports Computerworld Magazine.
One author hired a programmer to develop an iPhone application that would change the shape and look of the font used to tell the story, creating a hybrid visual narrative. Flashfictiononline.com tells its stories in 1,000 words or less — perfectly adapted to flickering pixels on a screen — while in Japan, best-selling novels are read on cell phones.
The founders of another literary website, DailyLit.com, offer a simple explanation for their business plan. The site helps readers get their book fix through e-mail installments, “because we spent hours each day on e-mail but could not find the time to read a book. Now the books come to us by e-mail. Problem solved.”
Blogs are also becoming books. Inter Press Service notes that the newly established Lulu Blooker Prize was founded to honor books that emerged from blogs.
One potential aspirant to the prize may be Argentine journalist Hernan Casciari, who is blogging his way to fame after turning his online journals into a novel and a play.
Cultural elites will be relieved to know that electronic literature is not just a mainstream phenomenon; it’s also in academia.
The University of Maryland-based Electronic Literature Organization will sponsor a conference in December on digital arts and culture, according to their Web site, which also notes a major British humanities grant in support of digital poetry.
In London, rail commuters participated in a Twitter haiku contest, meshing the tight discipline of Japanese poetry with Twitter’s 140-character constraints, CBC News reported.
According to The Telegraph, Londoners are using Twitter in another way — to make “tweets” of legendary literature. This includes the following take on a particularly classic Irish text that is certainly a product of its times:
“jamesjoyce: Man walks around Dublin. We follow every minute detail of his day. He’s probably overtweeting.”
“How Technology is changing what we read”
Computer World, May 5, 2009
“London train station holds twitter haiku contest”
CBC News May 18, 2009
“Great works of literature shortened into tweets”
The Telegraph, May 12, 2009
“Comic books can be a first step toward literacy”
Poughkeepsie Journal, May 22, 2009
“OU-C Student working to teach written communication through video games”
Chillicothe Gazette, May 9, 2009
“Illiteracy limits five percent of u.s. adults”
Rocky Mount Telegram: May 8, 2009
“Argentina: Blogs a shortcut to fame”
Inter Press Service, May 21, 2009
“Q&A: ‘I Was Just So Relieved the Zombie Didn’t Keep a Blog'”
Inter Press Service, May 20, 2009