SansBlogue  
Friday, March 09, 2007
  Illiterate students and the end of cyberpunk ::
One day computers and the networks we use to communicate will become ubiquitous, and we will forget the technology. As most of us forget the complex and once esoteric technologies of pen and paper.

That day was foreseen back in 1993 (the year I started at Carey) by a cyperpunk called "Stranger", and recognised as a significant insight by Nathan Cobb, "Cyberpunk -- Terminal Chic?," Boston Globe (24 November 1992, pp. 29, 32), now online in various places. [Hat tip to Alex Soojung-Kim Pang of The End of Cyberspace and his "former student Josh Buhs".]
It was nearly midnight deep inside Venus de Milo, a dark and sweaty Boston dance emporium. The Shamen, a British musical duo augmented by an assortment of digital gewgaws, was unleashing a storm of high-energy technopop that was cyberpunk through and through. "We can see tomorrow in each other's eyes," they sang at one point as the bouncing crowd raised its collective fist, presumably in the direction of cyberspace.

...

A handful of computer jockeys have spawned a style and an attitude. It's no coincidence that Mondo 2000, a glossy quarterly magazine that trumpets the pop version of cyberpunk, likes to talk about "surfin' the new edge." Way cool.

And consider: Cyberpunk is only a corner of a much broader cyberculture- at-large, which includes an online worldwide population of middle-aged couch potatoes, wheezy academics, corporate pooh-bahs, govermnet drones, and on and one. "In the future it will be everywhere, but it won't be called cyberculture," says Stranger, a 17-year-old Miami high school senior who, like most hackers, prefers his computer handle to his real name. "It will just be called culture. A few years ago, people used to talk about 'the emerging TV cuture.' We no longer talk about a 'TV culture' today. It's a given. Somdeay soon, no one will talk about 'emerging cyberculture.' Because it will be a given, too."
Meanwhile back on planet Carey... it's the start of the year, and students are facing the challenging world of networked electronic communication. Some arrive already literate, but others - mainly the over-forties - are illiterate by 21st century standards. Like 19th century factory workers or farmers who could not read or write a letter, they have difficulty reading and writing online. "Discussion forums" are frightening, online multi-choice tests terrify... today they are illiterate, even if their spelling and punctuation are hugely better than that of their, usually younger, literate peers.

Oh, for the day when networked communication technology is ubiquitous, and as invisible to us as the complex and esoteric technologies of alphabets, pens and paper have become. In the meanwhile, we'll muddle through, and try along with Job and Genesis to help you gain the basic skills for educated survival in the current century!

(Shame most of you cannot yet read this blog post, and God forbid I should podcast the ideas ;-)

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