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Little Messages That Matter

The decline of newspaper circulation

A talk on literacy, democracy, blogging, and Twitter

The 2010 Lundquist Lecture–Ken Smith, Department of English and Master of Liberal Studies Program

7:00 p.m., Tuesday, April 6 in 1001 Wiekamp Hall (1800 Mishawaka Avenue)

Reception to follow. Free and open to the public.

As Franklin Roosevelt noted, education—literacy itself—is a precondition for improved democracy, as well as a force in a country’s political progress. Certain classics of American literature attest to the generative power of literacy, but the short forms of writing common in blogging and mandated by Twitter are strange and disruptive. Familiar institutions, such as newspapers, are threatened in part by the appeal, especially to young people, of these more informal paths for information and dialogue. In fact, a rising young generation now has grown very comfortable using new social media tools such as Twitter and Facebook, working out their lives in part online. There is no shortage of bad behavior on the Internet, but we also find examples of community-building and active citizenship that inspire hope for a more constructive future of democratic exchange. We don’t know for sure where this great shift will take society, but many institutions are already being challenged by these changes. In time, our public universities will have to prepare a more informal, less authority-driven generation for a new social order that takes digital media and collaboration for granted. This may be the start of one of the greatest changes in human society since the printing press, making these years very exciting and challenging for educators, journalists, and active citizens.

  1. Monica Tetzlaff
    April 6, 2010 at 9:09 pm

    This looks great. I’m going!

  2. April 7, 2010 at 1:14 am

    Wonderful discussion Ken. It made me realize that THIS was long overdue:

  3. April 7, 2010 at 1:45 am

    Also: here’s the links to the Chicago Flashmob footage I helped organize:
    NEWS ARTICLE AND VIDEO: http://cbs2chicago.com/local/flash.mob.united.2.924898.html

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