To become “electrate?”
The term electracy has been coined by Gregory Ulmer which combines two words, electrical and literacy. Electracy pertains to the transition our society is experiencing, from a more analog based form to an electronic based social machine of intake of information. Alphabetic writing is one of the earliest forms of communication invented by the Greeks – this created a shift from orality to literacy. Electracy has been added to this tri-form beginning with orality and literacy, to incorporate another dimension of thought, practice and identity. These can be looked at as an apparatus or social machine, electracy being the only one out of the three that is technological. Electracy basically describes the skill that is needed to exploit the full potential of new electronic media. To understand this term better, a parallel of literacy can be used – a person may be literate or illiterate and in parallel, electrate or analectrate.
After talking to Susan Gorbet about this term, I was able to understand this word on a few different levels. First of all, there is a level of ability that needs to be obtained. For literacy, are you able to read and write? – in parallel for electracy, are you capable to use these electronic forms? Secondly, you must feel comfortable in literacy by being able to write in deeper forms such as essays or novels. For electracy, you have to feel comfortable using electronic devices without much thought, as if it were routine or second nature. And lastly, a level of familiarity much be met – in literacy are you able to understand higher references used in writings? ex. the Bible. As for electracy if you are familiar with certain devices, you can use those skills and reiterate them into the process of learning new devices.
Electracy in an academic form is noted in several fields including English composition, literary and media criticism, digital media and art, and architecture. (Mitrasinovic, 2005) Ulmer writes,
“Electrate pedagogy is based in art/aesthetics as relays for operating new media organized as a prosthesis for learning any subject whatsoever. The near absence of art in contemporary schools is the electrate equivalent of the near absence of science in medieval schools for literacy…The ambivalent relation of the institutions of school and entertainment today echoes the ambivalence informing church-science relations throughout the era of literacy.”
Based on this quote, it is important for us as new media designers to understand the processes and how crucial it is for us to all be electrate. We must be digitally “literate” to learn and exploit the full potential of electronic media that is offered to us.