Can’t Read Can’t Write – Channel 4

Can't Read Can't Write is a fascinating and very moving TV series about a group of UK adults ranging from 100% illiterate to a little more literate than that. I simply can't imagine operating in our text-bound world where I cannot read anything at all, as in the experience of one of the participants who is roughly the same age as me and who left a shop in tears because she could not find the word 'ham' on any of the products. Of course, this was slightly exaggerated because presumably she has been buying ham for 50 years just from looking at the contents of the pack, but it was still very provocative to imagine her plight. Last night was the first of the series, and you can watch again here.
Disclosure: My daughter Erin Thomas Wong was Production Manager for this series.


Transliterate workspace at Google Zurich

Thanks to Lorna Hamilton-Brown for alerting me to this video about Google's wonderful Zurich offices.

Transliteracy Sprout

I learned about Sprout from Howard Rheingold just yesterday and have been obsessing over it since. This is my first attempt to create a Transliteracy Sprout – comments welcome.
As I understand it, once you've created a sprout you can keep editing, adding and updating it, and the new content will automatically update itself wherever it is e.g. you can copy my sprout below onto your blog, and it will still update when I change it. Furthermore, it will also let me know where it has travelled to. Sounds great eh?!

Vannevar Bush meets Nick Carr in Atlantic Monthly – What the Internet is doing to our brains

Atlantic Monthly magazine has been around for a long time, and it was the platform for one of the most important articles of the 20th century – As We May Think, by Vannevar Bush, published in 1945 as a call for scientists who had collaborated so well during wartime to maintain that momentum and use their skills to solve the peacetime problems of humanity. The specific issue he concerned himself with was how to manage the growing amount of knowledge that was being accumulated:

Science has provided the swiftest communication between individuals; it has provided a record of ideas and has enabled man to manipulate and to make extracts from that record so that knowledge evolves and endures throughout the life of a race rather than that of an individual. // There is a growing mountain of research. But there is increased evidence that we are being bogged down today as specialization extends.

In the 1960s and 70s many believed that the internet would be the answer to Bush's problems. But has it just made them worse? This summer Atlantic Monthly has published Nicholas Carr's cry from deep inside the mountain of info-stuff we now wallow in. Is Google making us stupid? he asks.

Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.

We are now not so much bogged down, as in Vannevar Bush's day, but skimming across. Carr writes "My mind now expects to take in information the way the Net distributes it: in a swiftly moving stream of particles. Once I was a scuba diver in the sea of words. Now I zip along the surface like a guy on a Jet Ski."
Read Carr's article. It's a powerful admission of something we all need to face.
x-posted from