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From fountain pen to Facebook post: networking literacy as the intersection of digital and epistolary literacies




Wilson, Emily M., author
Souder, Donna, advisor
Eskew, Doug, committee member
Gage, Scott, committee member

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This thesis examines the connections between 18th century epistolary literacy and 21st century digital literacy. I argue for the use of the phrase "networking literacy" as a term that captures the essential overlapping elements of the two other terms. A networking literacy is a literacy developed in a dialogic environment between two or more people who are too distant in proximity to communicate verbally, is strongly informed by audience, is typically discursive, and focuses on topics that are usually personal or addressed from a personal angle. Networking literacies transcend geographical location, historical moment, and especially technology. While the tools of technology change, the need writers have to engage in networking literacy and the impact it can potentially have upon their motivation to write and comfort with writing, remains the same regardless of whether they hold a pen or a smart phone in their hands. The tools of networking literacy will undoubtedly evolve within the next several decades into forms that may well be unrecognizable to us. However, whether it's via Royal Post, Tweet, or status update, networking literacies will find a way into our new technologies. Although networking literacy will certainly shape and be shaped by technology, an essential set of principles about the writer and writing process will remain the same regardless of the writing tools used. I argue that the emergence of epistolary literacy in 18th century England and its effect on both the individual and society bears striking similarity to the emergence of digital literacy in 21st century America, and that the points at which they intersect form the definition of networking literacy. Networking literacies help construct the identities of the users and share certain attributes regardless of technology, including being discursive, personal, narrative, and dialogic. Regardless of the technological tools writers use, the characteristics of networking literacy, including its dialogism, discursiveness, and the narrative template it provides for writers to lay over the events of their lives, remain the same in any era.


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