What is Electracy?
Electracy, or “electronic literacy” is a word coined by English and media studies professor Gregory Ulmer. The term is not to be confused with “computer literacy”, as stated by Inman in Electronic Collaboration in the Humanities: Issues and Options. Electracy is not simply one’s ability to understand technology and the Internet – it is a much broader term that encompasses the idea of collective problem solving through an experimental network known as the EmerAgency.
Among its functions, the EmerAgency would be used to establish a user’s relation to a particular discipline, such as crop-irrigation. By establishing their field of expertise, it becomes possible to connect with users in similar fields across the globe, who in turn, can collaborate to invent new ways of combating issues with crop-irrigation (Hawk, 243). This is comparable to contemporary social networking websites such as Facebook (where users connect to other’s online identities) and Wikipedia (which compiles knowledge collectively).
Ulmer proposes a “wired community” through the EmerAgency – “an umbrella organization…whose purpose is to witness and testify, to give voice to a part of the public left out of community decision making” (Ulmer, Internet Invention: From Literacy to Electracy). He believes that through EmerAgency and the electracy of students, it is possible for young adults to influence the decisions of politicians and other authorities.
Imaging is stressed by Ulmer as a stronger platform for communication, like orality and literacy before it. Although his concept of electracy supersedes these concepts, orality and literacy still play an integral part in being electrate. He proposes that we are more susceptible to propaganda through images and technology (e.g. advertising) than spoken or written word because of its “relative newness as an apparatus” (Ulmer, Electronic Monuments, 47). Ulmer believes that with the rise of electracy, however, such means of communication will be used less as tools of manipulation and instead as a stronger way of making connections – “otherwise, of course, we might end up in something like the Matrix” (Ulmer, The Higher Men).
Although its applications seem practical, Inman doubts that we will ever truly reach an electrate society, arguing that scholars have dubbed the concept “too essentialist” – or that the essence of the idea is more predominant than its actual tangible existence (Inman, Computers and Writing: The Cyborg Era, 161).
Heidi Y theorizes that being electrate is much like writing poetry – there is a certain meditative process involved where words are given meaning and connected through metaphors rather than being literally stated. That’s not to say that electracy involves abstract thought, necessarily, but that there is a new way of forming connections that emerges.
It seems that the goal of electracy is within the best interests of our society, but its tangibility is questionable. Has this generation reached the pinnacle of effective communication through technology, or is there more to come? One thing is for certain, electracy will have to be a natural development in humanity rather than a forced concept – just like oral and written communication before it.
– “Discipline–Neologism.” MyStory – The Hystory of Heidi Y. Web. 08 Oct. 2009. <http://www.heidiy.com/mystory_files/Page1569.htm>.
– “Electracy.” Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., 6 Mar. 2009. Web. 08 Oct. 2009. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electracy>.
– Hawk, Byron. A Counter-History of Composition Toward Methodologies of Complexity (Pitt Comp Literacy Culture). New York: University of Pittsburgh, 2007. Print.
– Inman, James A., Cheryl Reed, and Peter Sands. Electronic Collaboration in the Humanities Issues and Options. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum, 2003. Print.
– Inman, James A. Computers and writing: the cyborg era. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2004. Print.
– Ulmer, Gregory L. Electronic monuments. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 2005. Print.
– Ulmer, Gregory L. Internet Invention: From Literacy to Electracy. New York: Longman, 2003. Print.
– Ulmer, Gregory L. “The Higher Men.” Interview by Lila Pine. 2004
– “Ulmer Review.” BGSU. Bowling Green State University. Web. 08 Oct. 2009. <http://www.bgsu.edu/cconline/reviews/ulmer_review.htm>.