您现在的位置: 快乐英语网 >> 阅读天地 >> 文化生活 >> 正文

读写文化:山重水复疑无路? The End of Literacy? Don't Stop Reading


  What will happen to reading and writing in our time?

  Could the doomsayers be right? Computers, they maintain, are destroying literacy. The signs—students' declining reading scores, the drop in leisure reading to just minutes a week, the fact that half the adult population reads no books in a year—are all pointing to the day when a literate culture becomes a distant memory. By contrast, optimists foresee the Internet ushering in a new, vibrant3) participatory4) culture of words. Will they carry the day5)?
读写文化:山重水复疑无路? The End of Literacy? Don't Stop Reading  末日论者的观点是正确的吗?他们坚信,电脑正在毁灭人们的读写能力。其征兆就是:学生的阅读成绩下降,人们每周用于休闲阅读的时间只有几分钟,有一半的成年人一年之中没有读过一本书。所有这一切都预示着一个日子的到来:读写文化即将成为一个遥远的记忆。相反,乐观论者则认为,因特网将引领一个生机勃勃的、可以全民共享的文字新文化。他们的观点能独领风骚吗?

  Maybe neither. Let me suggest a third possibility: Literacy will continue to thrive, but in forms and formats we can't yet envision.

  That's what has always happened as writing and reading have evolved over the ages. It was less than 100,000 years ago that our human predecessors first made meaningful marks on surfaces, notating the phases of the moon or drawing animals on cave walls. Within the past 5,000 years, societies across the Near East's Fertile Crescent6) began to use systems of marks to record important trade exchanges as well as pivotal7) events in the present and the past. These marks gradually became less pictorial8), and a decisive leap occurred when they began to capture certain sounds reliably: U kn red ths sntnz cuz Inglsh feechurs “graphic-phoneme9) correspondences”.
  自古以来,在读与写的进化史中,它们一直都是这样发展的。将近十万年以前,我们人类的祖先开始在物体表面刻画有意义的符号,在洞穴内壁上记录月相的变化或者描绘动物的形态。在过去五千年的时间里,在近东的新月沃地一带生活着的一些部族开始使用符号系统来记录重要的贸易交换信息,以及现在和过去发生的重大事件。这些符号逐渐摆脱了象形的特征,最终发生了关键性的质的飞跃,开始使用有规律的符号来代表特定的声音,这就是英语语言“音形对应”的特点,因为这个特点,你能读懂这样的句子:“U kn red ths sntnz cuz Inglsh feechurs ‘graphic-phoneme correspondences'.”(译注:即“You can read this sentence because English features ‘graphic-phoneme correspondences'.”)

  A master of written Greek, Plato feared that written language would undermine human memory capacities (much in the same way that we now worry about similar side effects of “Googling”). But libraries made the world's knowledge available to anyone who could read. The 15th-century printing press disturbed those who wanted to protect and interpret the word of God, but the availability of Bibles in the vernacular10) allowed laypeople11) to take control of their spiritual lives and, if historians are correct, encouraged entrepreneurship in commerce and innovation in science.

  In the past 150 years, each new medium of communication—telegraph, telephone, movies, radio, television, the digital computer, the World Wide Web—has introduced its own peculiar mix of written, spoken and graphic languages and evoked a chaotic chorus of criticism and celebration.

  But of the changes in the media landscape over the past few centuries, those featuring digital media are potentially the most far-reaching12). Those of us who grew up in the 1950s, at a time when there were just a few computers in the world, could never have anticipated the ubiquity13) of personal computers. A mere half-century later, more than a billion people can communicate via e-mail, chat rooms and instant messaging; post their views on a blog; play games with millions of others worldwide; create their own works of art or theater and post them on YouTube; join political movements; and even inhabit, buy, sell and organize in a virtual reality called Second Life14). No wonder the chattering classes15) can't agree about what this all means.

  Here's my take16).

  Once we ensured our basic survival, humans were freed to pursue other needs and desires, including the pleasures of communicating, forming friendships, convincing others of our point of view, exercising our imagination, enjoying a measure of privacy. Initially, we pursued these needs with our senses, our hands and our individual minds. Human and mechanical technologies to help us were at a premium17). It's easy to see how the emergence of written languages represented a boon. The invention of the printing press and the emergence of readily available books, magazines and newspapers allowed untold millions to extend their circle, expand their minds and expound their pet18) ideas.

  For those of us of a 19th- or 20th-century frame of mind, books play a special, perhaps even spiritual, role. Works of fiction—the writings of Jane Austen, Leo Tolstoy, William Faulkner—allow us to inhabit fascinating worlds we couldn't have envisioned. Works of scholarship—the economic analyses of Karl Marx and John Maynard Keynes, the histories of Thucydides19) and Edward Gibbon20)—provide frameworks for making sense of the past and the present.

  But now, at the start of the 21st century, there's a dizzying set of literacies available—written languages, graphic displays and notations. And there's an even broader array of media—analog, digital, electronic, hand-held, tangible and virtual—from which to pick and choose. There will inevitably be a sorting-out process. Few media are likely to disappear completely; rather, the idiosyncratic21) genius and peculiar limitations of each medium will become increasingly clear. Fewer people will write notes or letters by hand, but the elegant handwritten note to mark a special occasion will endure.

  I don't worry for a nanosecond22) that reading and writing will disappear. Even in the new digital media, it's essential to be able to read and write fluently and, if you want to capture people's attention, to write well. Of course, what it means to “write well” changes: Virginia Woolf didn't write the same way that Jane Austen did, and Arianna Huffington23)'s blog won't be confused with Walter Lippmann24)'s columns. But the imaginative spheres and real-world needs that all those written words address remain.

  I also question the predicted disappearance of the material book. When they wanted to influence opinions, both the computer giant Bill Gates and the media visionary Nicholas Negroponte25) wrote books (the latter in spite of his assertion that the material book was becoming anachronistic26)). The convenience and portability of the book aren't easily replaced, though under certain circumstances—a month-long business trip, say—the advantages of Amazon's hand-held electronic Kindle reading device trumps a suitcase full of dog-eared27) paperbacks.

  Two aspects of the traditional book may be in jeopardy28), however. One is the author's capacity to lay out a complex argument, which requires the reader to study and reread, following a circuitous29) course of reasoning. The Web's speedy browsing may make it difficult for digital natives to master Kant's Critique of Pure Reason (not that it was ever easy).

  The other is the book's special genius for allowing readers to enter a private world for hours or even days at a time. Many of us enjoyed long summer days or solitary train rides when we first discovered an author who spoke directly to us. Nowadays, as clinical psychologist Sherry Turkle has pointed out, young people seem to have a compulsion to stay in touch with one another all the time; periods of lonely silence or privacy seem toxic. If this lust for 24/7 online networking continues, one of the dividends30) of book reading may fade away. The wealth of different literacies and the ease of moving among them—on an iPhone, for example—may undermine the once-hallowed31) status of books.

  But whatever our digital future brings, we need to overcome the perils of dualistic thinking, the notion that what lies ahead is either a utopia or a dystopia32). If we're going to make sense of what's happening with literacy in our culture, we need to be able to triangulate: to bear in mind our needs and desires, the media as they once were and currently are, and the media as they're continually transforming.

  It's not easy to do. But maybe there's a technology, just waiting to be invented, that will help us acquire this invaluable cognitive power.

  1. literacy [ˈlɪt(ə)rəsi] n. 读写能力
  2. Howard Gardner:霍华德·加德纳(1943~),著名的发展和认知心理学家,“多元智能理论”创始人,现任美国哈佛大学教育研究生院认知和教育学教授、心理学教授。
  3. vibrant [ˈvaɪbrənt] adj. 充满生气的;活跃的
  4. participatory [pɑːˈtɪsɪpət(ə)ri] adj. 供人分享的;吸引参与的
  5. carry the day:胜利;获胜
  6. Fertile Crescent:新月(形)沃地(一古代农业地区,从尼罗河向东北延伸到底格里斯河,向东南伸展至波斯湾)
  7. pivotal [ˈpɪvət(ə)l] adj. 起枢轴(或中心)作用的;关键的
  8. pictorial [pɪkˈtɔːriəl] adj. 有象形文字特征的
  9. phoneme [ˈfəʊniːm] n. [语]音位,音素
  10. vernacular [və(r)ˈnækjʊlə(r)] n. 日常用语;通俗语;白话
  11. laypeople [ˈleɪˌpiːp(ə)l] n. 未担任神职的一般信徒
  12. far-reaching:深远的
  13. ubiquity [juːˈbɪkwəti] n. 普遍存在,无所不在
  14. Second Life:第二人生,是一个基于因特网的虚拟世界。通过由Linden实验室开发的一个可下载的客户端程序,用户(在该游戏里叫做“居民”)可以通过可运动的虚拟化身相互交流。居民们可以四处游逛,会碰到其他的居民,能进行社交、参加各种活动、相互交易虚拟财产等。
  15. chattering classes:〈贬〉喋喋不休的阶级,尤指学术、艺术、媒体等圈中对社会文化问题大胆发表意见的人。
  16. take [teɪk] n. 观点,看法
  17. at a premium:奇缺的
  18. pet [pet] adj. 特别的
  19. Thucydides:修昔底德(c. 460 BC~c. 395 BC),古希腊历史学家,其代表作是《伯罗奔尼撒战争史》(History of the Peloponnesian War)。
  20. Edward Gibbon:爱德华·吉本(1737~1794),英国作家、历史学家,启蒙运动的杰出代表之一,其代表作是《罗马帝国衰亡史》(The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire)。
  21. idiosyncratic [ˌɪdiəʊsɪŋˈkrætɪk] adj. 特殊物质的,特殊的,异质的
  22. nanosecond [ˈnænəʊˌsekənd] n. 毫微秒,十亿分之一秒
  23. Arianna Huffington:阿里安娜·赫芬顿(1950~),美国知名专栏作家,新闻资讯网站The Huffington Post的创始人之一
  24. Walter Lippmann:沃尔特·李普曼(1889~1974),美国新闻评论家和作家,传播学史上具有重要影响的学者之一,在宣传分析和舆论研究方面享有很高的声誉。
  25. Nicholas Negroponte:尼古拉斯·内格罗蓬特(1943~),美国电脑专家、社会预想家,麻省理工学院媒体实验室的创办人兼执行总监,“每个孩子一部笔记本电脑”项目的创始人
  26. anachronistic [əˌnækrəˈnɪstɪk] adj. 落伍的,过时的
  27. dog-eared:卷角的(书等)
  28. jeopardy [ˈdʒepə(r)di] n. 危险
  29. circuitous [sɜː(r)ˈkjuːɪtəs] adj. 迂回的;曲折的
  30. dividend [ˈdɪvɪdend] n. 效益;回报
  31. hallowed [ˈhæləʊd] adj. 神圣化的,神圣的
  32. dystopia [dɪsˈtəʊpiə] n. 反面乌托邦,反面假想国(指想象中的政治、经济等一团糟的地方),敌托邦