Internet Invention: From Literacy to Electracy
A “next generation” textbook for online writing and design, Internet Invention supplements existing print and web primers on HTML and graphics production with a program that puts these tools and techniques to work with a purpose.
Designed as a passage from the more familiar rhetoric of the page to the less familiar one of the screen, this text is a hybrid workbook-reader-theory with chapters divided into the following sub-genres: Studio, Remakes, Lectures, The Ulmer File, and Office. These sections offer a sequence of interconnected Web writing assignments, rhetorical meditations, scholarly discussions, case studies, and pedagogical metacommentary, which together combine to form a truly unique contribution to the body of rhetorical theory and practice in the age of the digital text.
Ulmer uses the invention of literacy by the Ancient Greeks as a model for the invention of “electracy” (which is to digital media what literacy is to print). Internet Invention brings the students into the process of invention, in every sense of the word. The book takes students through a series of Web assignments and exercises designed to organize their creative imagination, using a virtual consulting agency – “The EmerAgency” – as a vehicle for students to discover the potential for the Web to act as a setting for community problem solving.
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While this book might be used as a textbook for first-year composition, that is not its principle intent. It is intended for upper-division writing students, presumably those who already have a background in literary or electrate studies.
The book is ambitious, in that it seamlessly melds critical and aesthetic theory with pedagogy. Those familiar with Ulmer's work on Derrida will appreciate how well he can translate obscure theoretical methodology into assignable form.
That said, this is not a book for the cautious or the pragmatic. It is a theoretical adventure, built around a hypertextual reevaluation of literate adventure. It requires a teacher commanding a wide range of aesthetic, technical, and philosophic knowledge who can fill in the blanks, so to speak. The writing crosses traditional disciplinary boundaries between expressivism and social constructionist. The assignments call upon students to explore their ideological construction across four primary modes of 21st century existence--career, family, entertainment, and community. While at times crafting seemingly intentionally elusive prose and instructions, and also at times overly enamored with neologisms, Ulmer does accomplish what he sets before himself: an experimental textbook that deconstructs (reveals) the Universal desires behind the traditional (Modern, Literate, Logocentric) University Text Book. Its Mystory, not History. If that kind of language annoys you, then this isn't your kind of text.
Given that it is now seven years old (eons in techno-time), some of Ulmer's technological assumptions will read outdated. In teaching this book, I found contemporary technologies like Google Sites, Prezi, and Flash as updates to Ulmer's predilection for HTML.