Ulmer on the phone

It’s no secret that kids are practically born with iPhones in their hands and are tweeting by the age of 2. My 15-year-old sister can text message at twice my speed.

Talking with Greg Ulmer about teaching electronic literature, I asked what he thought was the most important thing to learn before starting to read new media. We’re used to thinking of technology as the source of novelty and the obstacle to comprehension, but understanding technology might not be for them the most pressing issue. His response was interesting:

“Technology is only one piece of what is a complex or compound aesthetic informing hypermedia… Makers of hypermedia works may come from a variety of different backgrounds, that within literacy were isolated from one another:  literature, fine arts, design, computer science, among others…In addition there is the context of multimedia, with the convergence of narrative, photography, music, performance in cinema.  The digital convergence of media and convergence of forms and convention have not yet been matched by convergence of study in education.”

Having studied under Ulmer, I realized how true this is. We had talked in the past about the need for student participation, but how were they to understand the form if they didn’t understand the transition to that form from other media? The “Internet Literature” course I took focused on graphic design as a supplement to literary aesthetic sand principles. The graphic design knowledge added another dimension of understanding that the narratological approach other new media courses had offered didn’t cover.