Sven Birkerts

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Do you agree with Birkerts' 1991 prediction in "Into the Electronic Millennium" about society becoming "dumbed down"?

"The complexity and distinctiveness of verbal and written communication, which are deeply bound to traditions of print literacy, will gradually be replaced by a more telegraphic sort of 'plainspeak.'"

"Curricula will be streamlined and simplified, and difficult texts will be pruned and glossed."

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This is a great question and I have to agree with the article. Twenty years has passed and many points of the article has turned out to be true. In the end of his essay he says that the electronic age will erode language and flatten historical perspectives. These words almost seem prophetic.

In terms of language, as Sven Birkerts predicts, there will be a decline in ambiguity, paradox, irony, and subtlety, and wit. These can only function in a literary tradition of print. The bite sized texts from the electronic media cannot sustain these things. I teach on the college level and I am amazed to see the decline of language development. It is only at our elite colleges where students know how to write for the most part.

In terms of flattening out history, Birkerts is spot on. The onslaught of post-modernism coupled with the digital age has produced people with only a though for the present with little concern for the past.

Let's hope that thing change.

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