Literacy, hypermedia, and the holocaust: reconfiguring rhetoric in hypermedia environments
Salvo, Michael J
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Writing teachers face the difficult task of teaching students to read and write in complex situations precisely when h seems these formal literate practices are becoming less valued m mass American culture. As written communication moves online, literacy is indeed changing. However, the ability to understand and manipulate complex texts becomes increasingly important for success in the emerging post-industrial economy. This dissertation, using the example of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's Wexner Learning Center as a representative example, describes the changing nature of Literacy in the information age and offers classroom strategies to meet students' Literacy needs while offering an analysis of hypermedia Literacy. Accompanying the move from an industrial-based to an information-based economy is a shift from a paper-based to a digit-based culture. As more American households are connected to the Internet there is a shift not only m the speed of communication but also in the mode and media of communication. While some critics are predicting the demise of Literacy as we know h, electronic mail, hypertext and the World Wide Web are offering examples of different constructions of literacy. These new forms of writing are contexts for communication-new rhetorical situations. These new rhetorical situations require analysis so that Literacy workers (writing teachers, language scholars, as well as other intellectuals in the humanities) can address the Literacy needs of twenty-first century students. Literacy, technology, and the Holocaust come together in a technological system signaling a shift m how our culture stores and disseminates its stories and histories. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has constructed The Wexner Learning Center to house a database of Witness narratives. This hypermedia archive represents change in historical narrative and the way h is written, stored, and retrieved. Beyond the technical aspects of designing and implementing this system, the system itself signals a shift m the skills necessary to comprehend the historical stories being told. The images of witnesses retelling their experiences alter the cultural representation of the Holocaust. Utilizing high technology to convert filmed accounts of witnesses into computer-accessible files, the database of witness narratives is an example of a new means of sharing history that requires a sophisticated hyper-literate user. This dissertation investigates both the idea of an emerging high-technology hyper-rhetoric and the hyper-literacy necessary to read, write, and manipulate texts m the twenty-first century. Its theme should interest readers from a variety of humanistic and technical disciplines while contributing a new perspective on literacy in the digital age.