Theory in a Digital Age: A Project of English 483 Students, Coastal Carolina University

Ulmer's Litera(Electra)cy

The previous video explored the ways that the rhetoric was an embodied practice in physical spaces. Physical spaces are associated with the age of literacy as is charted above. According to Ulmer in “The Learning Screen,” “When the Greeks invented alphabetic writing they were engaged in a civilizational shift from one apparatus to another (from orality to literacy). They invented not only alphabetic writing but also a new institution (School) within which the practices of writing were devised.” Along with this shift to literacy, Ulmer argues, an ideological shift occurred from religion to science. Ulmer argues that we are currently experiencing a second civilizational shift: from literacy to electracy.  Ulmer notes that electracy took what worked best from orality and literacy and synthesized them. More specifically, Ulmer explains that electracy is “an apparatus, or social machine, partly technological, partly institutional” (3). The vehicle by which the “social machine” of electracy carries out its ideologies and practices is new media technologies. He goes on to say that electracy adds a new dimensions of “thought, identity, and practice” to the previous models of orality and literacy. The processes of “thought, identity, and practice” that populate electracy take place in digital spaces. These new beliefs, values, and practices are illustrated in the chart above.

    Note that the “behavior” of electracy is “play” and that the “ground” of electracy is “body.” I interpret this to mean that in electracy, users can play on the ground of their bodies. That is, they have the ability to morph, distort, construct, and deconstruct their own identities as they please with the aid of new media technologies like those that I mentioned above. Users of social media can use a similar technique of juxtaposition and synthesis by presenting their bodies online in new ways.  I will later refer to the intermingling of the behavior (play) and ground (body) of electracy as the embodied rhetoric that works to negate normativites and limits that socioculturally imposed on the body, especially in physical spaces, or the “speaking body.” 

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