Coming Soon – Beyond Literacy: Exploring a Post-Literate Future

Reading and writing are doomed.

Literacy as we know it is over.

Welcome to the post-literate future.

Beyond Literacy is a thought experiment about the demise of literacy and the rise of other capabilities, capacities or tools that will effectively and advantageously displace reading and writing. While the prospect of the end of literacy is disturbing for many, it will not be a decline into some new Dark Age but rather the beginning of an era of advanced human capability and connection.

The post-literate world is to be welcomed not feared. Of course, getting there could be a bit disruptive.

Why post literacy? It’s not that reading and writing aren’t good, they are just not good enough. The alphabet, the extraordinary basis of visible language (reading and writing), is a tool, an invention. And a fairly recent one. The complexities and challenges apparent and emerging in the contemporary world will require new solutions and new tools to enable them. Humans are natural and accomplished tool builders. Our history has demonstrated repeatedly our capacity to create new tools in response to new challenges (the alphabet itself is an example of this). We need Alphabet 2.0.

What is post-literacy? What could be sufficiently powerful and advantageous that it could replace a capacity so central to our experience? Perhaps nothing in the near term, but on the horizon are trends, developments, and possibilities that point to extraordinary changes. Advances in bio-computing, cognitive neurology, neural enhancements, machine intelligence, and even human evolution are a few of these developments. These are disruptive advances that will shape and transform what it means to be literate.

After examining the nature of literacy and its shortcomings, the e-book will explore the possibilities for a post-literate capacity and imagine the transition to this very different future.

Beyond Literacy is an experiment in creation and publication. Issued as a digital open access publication, the e-book is designed to foster dialogue and debate, either as part of the e-book or in other Internet venues.

It is also an experiment in pedagogy. Beyond Literacy is being created in conjunction with a graduate course at the iSchool, University of Toronto. The course, INF2301H – Special Topics in Information: Beyond Literacy, will put the students in the roles of learner, researcher, curator, and contributor in a network-based scholarly dialogue. They will create additional content for Beyond Literacy and they engage in dialogue about the concepts.

I encourage you to join the discussion.

Beyond Literacy: Exploring a Post-Literate Future will be published
beginning October 23, 2012 at

Michael Ridley is a librarian at the University of Guelph. He recently stepped down as Chief Information Officer (CIO) and Chief Librarian. Mike can be reached at, through his blog or on Twitter @mridley



Comments are closed.