What does the future hold?

by Andrea Kobeskzo on November 6, 2009

Never was it so apparent to me how drastically our culture has changed then on one early afternoon at my local hair salon. I had arrived early, sat and immediately scanned the table for the most topical magazine. I found one, opened it and glanced fleetingly at my seatmates. There were four. One talked on her cell-phone, one text-messaged on her cell-phone, one stared off into space and the last well-kept lady tapped furiously on her blackberry, then stared at it as if she had discovered a long lost Rosetta stone.

It dawned on me then how much had changed. I flashed back to another era, little more than a decade prior, when I would sit at the salon and sift through magazines. The women around me did likewise, back then. We had flipped pages in solidarity, making the most of our time in limbo by perusing whatever was available, be it recent news or even, for some, simple entertaining gossip. But that was last decade, and the years leading up to this one had brought a steady decline in my witness of people casually perusing at the salon, in my physician’s waiting room, at the line in the market, or even in the bookstores I frequented. My generation, hedging insidiously over middle-age, had witnessed perhaps most closely the dawning of the digital takeover. We had found ourselves immersed in new technologies we could enjoy and grasp for the most part, although our children probably understood it better. So much speed and convenience and entertainment, but what of the aftermath? Reading and writing skills continue to decline in he United States. Could this new era come at the cost of literacy? Books may not be dead. They’re just gathering dust on library shelves. Alarmists would claim that our society is crumbling. Perhaps this is not the case, but what does the future hold when leading universities begin clearing out books to make room for computer workstations? Times have changed, irrevocably, inevitably. The cold, hard truth is that the future lies less in the written page, and more on the screens of computer monitors and handheld digital devices. I will play the role of the idealist, and say that this evolution of technology has paved the way for an evolution of literacy, or in simpler terms, an evolution of the genre of literature. Can a conduit designed to bring the printed page to a computer screen, or even a cell phone, become literature’s saving grace? Our children can still learn of Shakespeare, and still be enriched by Jules Verne, if in a way vastly different then we as children discovered them. In light of this, the future looks bright indeed. Literacy will not go the way of the dinosaur. Classic works of literature can, and have, taken a contemporary form, in an era of technology capable of delivering the wonderful stuff of books to nearly anyone on the globe in the blink of an eye, or the push of a button.

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