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Thoughts turn to angels all around us

I don’t actually know what Story will become as digital technology shapes our literary future. I don’t have a clue. I’m not a geek. I still remember the day a friend told me and a few other girlfriends, all of us freelance journalists in the Wild West of Peru in the early 90s (drug wars and terrorism, a tragic time but we felt so very much alive) that something called the World Wide Web was going to change the way the world accessed information.

We laughed and poured her some more wine.

At that point some of us were already filing our stories via modem. Dial-up, of course. But I strung for the august Times of London and the only way to file for them in 1990 was by dictating the story. I’d get up at, like, four a.m., dial London, get put on hold (wonderful Baroque stuff, no muzak for the dean of  British publishing.) Finally, some sweet-voiced girl would come on, so Brit you could practically hear the peaches and cream, and I would dictate my story while she typed.

That’s how I cut my teeth in writing, as a journalist reading my stories aloud over a crackly Third World phone line. So most of what I think about the future of Story is probably bullshit. Therefore, I reserve the right to change my mind and contradict myself as often as I want. I’m making it up as I go along.

According to a guy I saw at an educational conference, today’s “screenagers” speak “DSL” (Digital Second Language.) These kids like quick changes, visual learning, and interaction. (Which sometimes makes us teachers very, very crazy. But like moths during the Industrial Revolution, we must change our colors in order to survive.)

Another guy at the same conference said compared print literacy with digital literacy. Books, he said, provide a linear view of the world and allow “users” to access reality in a temporal fashion. Digital literacy, on the other hand, provides a networked view of the world and allows users to access reality in a spatial fashion.

Sure, this is eduspeak, but it got me thinking. If digital literacy develops a more spatial, networked way of learning and thinking, digital natives may actually be better positioned to understand complex, non-linear narratives than print natives are.

Proust, anyone?