Tech’s Impact on Literacy

You’ve heard it more than once since starting at LIU:  to be a strong writer you need to read.  In today’s edition of WNYC’s New Tech City, the show explores the impact of technology on the blind and visually impaired, asking the question, “Is Braille Obsolete?”  Experts argue that without learning Braille, which is reading by touch, the blind and visually impaired become functionally illiterate.  They cannot write because they do not read.   It’s an interesting listen, and in the context of making the connection between reading and writing, makes clear that as much as new technology can help, the core skill of communicating in writing is out of reach to those who rely solely on auditory aids instead of reading for themselves.

The link is here:  New Tech City: Is Braille Obsolete? – WNYC.

I’ve experienced the phenomenon of what I will call “Audible-induced illiteracy.”  I’m a fan of the audio book–it keeps me reading even when I can’t sit down with a physical book.  I listen on the subway, at the gym, while cleaning the house.  But I’m very aware that in listening I lose something:  the ability to connect to the written word and fully understand the text.  I don’t see the way sentences are constructed, or how words are spelled.  I don’t have a feel for how the chapters are presented.  All of these things make for a deeper reading, a reading I don’t have access to as a listener.  What does this mean?  Well, it’s just a compromise I have to make because I enjoy reading and listening is a way to do so when my days don’t give me the freedom to linger over the written word.  But I am highly selective about what I will listen to; I tend to “Audible” books that aren’t as literary, saving the gems for my eyes.  I’m at peace if I mishear Peter for Peeta in The Hunger Games, despite missing what the spelling might connote (and it does suggest something).  But if I can’t see the words and sentences in Tess of the D’Urbervilles that is a problem.  It doesn’t mean that I won’t listen to great literature, but if I do, I will read it, too.


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The Arthur O. Eve HEOP English Blog at LIU Brooklyn

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