Kress – Literacy in the New Media Age (2003)

I’m just eight pages into Gunther Kress’ Literacy in the New Media Age.
I’ve read the chunk before the preface (what is this thing, a superpreface, an
antepreface, pre-preface?): "The Futures of Literacy: Modes, Logics and
Affordances." This much is clear: image and text function according to
distinctive logics. With text, word follows word. It’s sequentiality
involves a distinctive commitment, both for writers and readers, to paths
and naming. Text inheres time, whereas image inheres space, Kress tells
us. Image involves a kind of commitment to location, and while Kress hints at
the importance of perceptual paths for readers of images, that point doesn’t get
extended early on. Next, Kress discusses media and affordances; these few
lines are a sample of what he’s got going here:

1. Multimodality is made easy, usual, ‘natural,’ by these technologies. (5)
2. The new technologies have changed unidirectionality into bidirectionality.
(6) (i.e. with the email, you can send and receive)
3. Writing is becoming ‘assembling according to designs’ in ways which are
overt, and much more far-reaching, than they were previously. (6)
4. The affordances and the organisations of the screen are coming to (re)shape
the organisation of the page. (6)
5. It is possible to see writing becoming subordinated to the logic of the
visual in many or all of its uses. (7)

That subordination concerns Kress, and I anticipate that it fuels what will
ultimately play out as a beware-of-image argument for Writing conservation
(pictures are preying on our dull-wit kids, sapping their Literacy, etc.).
But you’re right; to be fair, I should read more of it before leaping to
cyniclusions. Here’s an overarching
statement near the end of the pre-preface:

What do I hope to achieve which this book? There is a clear
difference between this book and others dealing with the issues of literacy
and new media. The current fascination with the dazzle of the new media
is conspicuous here by its absence. I focus on just a few instances and
descriptions of hypertextual arrangements, internet texts, or the structure of
websites. I am as interested in understanding how the sentence
developed in the social and technological environments of England in the
seventeenth century, as I am in seeing what sentences are like now. The
former like the latter–in showing principles of human meaning-making–can
give us ways of thinking about the likely developments of the sentences in the
social and technological environments of our present and of the immediate
future. In that sense the book is out of the present mould; in part it
looks to the past as much as to the present to understand the future. It
is a book about literacy now, everywhere, in all its sites of appearances, in
the old and the new media–it is about literacy anywhere in this new media
. (8)

With his explicit attention to sentences, I’m not expecting much
in the way of arrangement at a larger scale–the relationship of larger units
of writing as perhaps both spatial and temporal commitments. And I am glad
to know that LITNMA is catalogued in
Google Books
, so I can find that "arrangement(s)" turns up 39 times,
and "rhetoric" makes just three appearances. I’ll also have to

this review
after I get farther along with my own reading. More notes
before the weekend’s up….