Kress’ Literacy in the New Media Age

Gunther Kress
Literacy in the New Media Age
Area: Digital Media
Chapter 1: The futures of literacy: modes, logics, and affordances

• Language-as-writing will increasingly be displaced by image
• The world told is different than the world shown
• Writing = logic of time; Image (genre of display) = logic of space
• While the image’s reading path is open, the image itself is filled with meaning
o ≠ writing where’s there’s no leeway
• New technologies have changed unidirectionality into bidirectionality
• Authorship is no longer rare: no selection, no authority
• “Books” are acted upon and not simply “read”
Chapter 2: Preface
• There are four changes occurring simultaneously: social, economic, communicational, and technological
o Social changes are unmaking the structures and frames which had given a relative stability to forms of writing over the last two hundred years or so.
o Economic changes are altering the uses and purposes of the technology of writing.
o Communicational change is altering the relations of the means by which we represent our meanings, bringing image into the center of communication more insistently than is has been for several hundred years, and thereby challenging the dominance of writing.
o Technological change is altering the role and significance of the major media dissemination.
• The book has now been superseded by the screen
• Presence, seen semiotically is not absence or distance, but temporal co-presence
• Restructuring of power—a question of who has access to and control of the media
Chapter 3: Getting into a different world
• The chapter begins with a general questioning of a unified system of spelling and sound
• Sounds—large-sound units: syllables; meaning-units: words
• Cannot remain at the use of the letter alone
Critical moments in the text
1: [Two distinct factors] are the broad move from the now centuries-long dominance of writing to the new dominance of the image and, on the other hand, the move from the dominance of the medium of the book to the dominance of the medium of the screen.”
4: “Reading paths may exist in images, either because the maker of the image structured that into the image – and it is read as it is or it is transformed by the reader, or they may exist because they are constructed by the reader without prior construction by the maker of the image.”
5: “Interactivity has at least two aspects: one is broadly interpersonal, for instance, in that the user can ‘write back’ to the producer of a text with no difficulty – a potential achievable only with very great effort or not at all with the older media, and it permits the use to enter into an entirely new relation with all other texts – the notion of hypertextuality. The one has an effect on social power directly, the other has an effect on semiotic power, and through that on social power less immediately.”
10: “Writing which is tied still to sound via the alphabet is different to writing which is not lined to sound, as in those writing systems which use ‘characters’ and are oriented much more to representing concepts through conventionalized images, rather than through sounds transcribed imperfectly in letters.”
13: “The book will have something to say about the stuff of writing, its materiality, and its relation to the stuff of speech. This is a necessary step at the time when there threatens a new separation of the human body and technology.”
• I’m not sure why he’s suggesting that there’s a “threat” in the separation, especially since there’s less and less of a noticeable distinction…
19: ‘The free movement of cultural commodities has been as significant in unmaking the formerly relative stabilities and distinctiveness of cultural forms and values as have the effects of economic globalization, even if differently so. Cultural globalization has been the servant of economic globalization in two ways. It has provided the conditions of the appearance of ‘naturalness’ to the globalization of capital. […] Cultural globalization has prepared the ground for a global market for commodities which are in any case now more and more ‘cultural.’”
21: “Writing is undergoing changes of a profound kind: in grammar and syntax, particularly at the level of the sentence, and at the level of the text/message. Writing now plays one part in communicational ensembles, and no longer the part. Where before all information was conveyed in writing, now there is a decision to be made: which information, for this audience, is best conveyed in image and which in writing?”


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August 2008
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