In a largely futile attempt to come up to speed on some of the more recent technology tools and applications that seem to be getting a lot of buzz*, I've been playing with Pinterest. According to a study by Experian Marketing Services (Liz Gannes, All Things D, August 27, 2012):
“Pinterest is now the third most-visited social network, Google+ is No. 4, and Instagram is No. 11, in the markets Experian measures — which are North America, Australia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Singapore and the U.K.”
“As a portion of North American social networking visits, Pinterest grew 5,124 percent and Instagram grew 17,319 percent between July 2011 and July 2012.”
While it seems to be that the tool is mainly used by hobbyists, Pinterest has gotten quite a bit of attention from librarians as a recommended tool for "curation" of information by staff and students. When I asked the secretaries in my office about Pinterest, they all were enthusiastic about it for things like recipes and such. One described it (positively) as "like a magazine for people with ADD!"
In Libraries for a Postliterate Society (Multimedia & Internet @ Schools, July/August 2009), I argued that reading and writing are being supplanted by viewing and listening:
...the postliterate ... can read, but choose to meet their primary information and recreational needs through audio, video, graphics and gaming. Print for the postliterate is relegated to brief personal messages, short informational needs, and other functional, highly pragmatic uses such as instructions, signage and time-management device entries – each often highly supplemented by graphics. The postliterate’s need for extended works or larger amounts of information is met through visual and/or auditory formats.
The trend is accelerating. Some examples:
- Social networking is going post-literate as evidenced by rise of Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram.
- YouTube is now the second largest search engine after Google with people looking for information in video formats rather than print.
- Infographics seem to be telling the story journal articles once did in a more immediate and powerful (if shallow) fashion.
- Flipped classrooms primary distinction seems to be that students watch recorded lectures outside of class instead of reading textbooks or other materials. (OK, have at me.)
- iPad adoption has been rapid because of the multimedia capacity of these highly portable devices - both for consumption and especially for production. In testing of the Google Nexus, most who use it comment on the lack of the second camera that faces away from the user.
I am not mourning that this is happening. Personally, I think it is a natural evolution in communications:
Education and librarianship has a current bias toward print. This communication/ information format has served civilization well for a couple millennia. Most professionals now demonstrate high levels of proficiency in print literacy skills and they can be expected to defend the necessity of such skills vociferously. Most of my fellow professionals are in the same straights that I find myself - a competent reader, writer and print analyst but neophyte video, audio and graphic producer, consumer and critic. And it is human nature to be dismissive of those competencies that we ourselves lack.
But I would argue that postliteracy is a return to more natural forms of multi-sensory communication - speaking, storytelling, dialogue, debate, and dramatization. It is just now that these modes can be captured and stored digitally as easily as writing. Information, emotion and persuasion may be even more powerfully conveyed in multi-media formats.
Our staff development activities need to focus on becoming more multimedia literate as adults. Period.
Even if we are dis(pin)interested.
*In preparation for a workshop I am doing in a couple weeks where I will attempt to pass myself off as a "cuttin' edge" kind of guy. Wish me luck on that one...