Maximum Potential: Electracy


Electracy is a theory developed by Gregory Ulmer “that describes the kind of skills and facility necessary to exploit the full communicative potential of new electronic media such as multimedia, hypermedia, social software, and virtual worlds. According to Ulmer, electracy ‘is to digital media what literacy is to print.'”


As with any large scale innovation, potential successes and failures are often controversial. As I stated in my last blog post, at one point and time, paper was the newest technology. Ulmer supports this theory by saying that print developed from literacy  because people fully understood developments of the alphabet, of writing, and of reading. This allowed for further innovations within the field of written communication. The invention of paper had people concerned that their minds would dwindle. Instead, literacy became more democratic, shifting the majority of the population from non-reading to reading over the next couple of centuries.

If digital media is what literacy is to print, then this suggests that the wide availability of digital media will make technology a much more democratic platform. Ulmer describes electracy as more than just a theory, it is “an apparatus, or social machine, partly technological, partly institutional.” He later goes on to say that we (I would argue most of western culture) take literacy for granted.

Experience is all idiosyncratic, piecing together our life experience after experience. All experience influences our perspective. Literacy is a major component of life experience, one that shapes who we are, what we know, and how we interpret the world around us. Ulmer argues that the democratic state of literacy shaped the self identity of people in the print era as it does today.


I agree with Ulmer in that digital media is a new frontier for learning, education, and self enhancement. Unfortunately for right now, it is still expensive to produce and distribute, limiting those who have access. Although technological developments are popular in the west and developed countries, we still have a long way to go in terms of global digitalization. I, along with many of my peers, also easily forget that our lifestyles are not the norm. I graduated from a public high school that was equipped with SmartBoards (essentially an iPad the size of a whiteboard) in every classroom, laptops, and iPads for all students in STEM classrooms, and other incredible pieces of technology that enhanced my learning experience. I attend a phenomenal private liberal arts university and my education has always been put first by my parents, my friends, and myself. Would I describe myself as electrate? No.

Has technology shaped me? Absolutely. Does technology shape those in developing third world countries? Yes. But technology is a matter of perspective.

SOURCE // Introduction: Electracy


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