This article in the New York Times magazine yesterday, about how literacy rates are declining among blind people as audio materials and computer reading software replace Braille, is absolutely fascinating:
A few decades ago, commentators predicted that the electronic age would create a postliterate generation as new forms of media eclipsed the written word. Marshall McLuhan claimed that Western culture would return to the “tribal and oral pattern.” But the decline of written language has become a reality for only the blind.
“What we’re finding are students who are very smart, very verbally able — and illiterate,” Jim Marks, a board member for the past five years of the Association on Higher Education and Disability, told me. “We stopped teaching our nation’s blind children how to read and write. We put a tape player, then a computer, on their desks. Now their writing is phonetic and butchered. They never got to learn the beauty and shape and structure of language.”
Related reading: Alison Gopnik's review of Reading in the Brain, about the "literate brain" and the possible cognitive implications of a digital environment.
Unrelated reading: The Naked and the Conflicted, an essay about how Kate Roiphe would rather be smacked around by Updike than cuddled by Eggers.