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Postliterate society

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Title: Postliterate society  
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Subject: Aliteracy, Literacy, Oracy, Mental health literacy, Literacy test
Collection: Literacy, Science Fiction Themes
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Postliterate society

A postliterate society is a hypothetical society in which multimedia technology has advanced to the point where literacy, the ability to read or write, is no longer necessary or common. The term appears as early as 1962 in Marshall McLuhan's The Gutenberg Galaxy. Many science-fiction societies are postliterate, as in Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451, Dan Simmons' novel Ilium, and Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story.

A postliterate society is different from a pre-literate one, as the latter has not yet created writing and communicates orally (oral literature and oral history, aided by art, dance, and singing), and the former has replaced the written word with recorded sounds (CDs, audiobooks), broadcast spoken word and music (radio), pictures (JPEG) and moving images (television, film, MPG, streaming video, video games, virtual reality). A postliterate society might still include people who are aliterate, who know how to read and write but choose not to. Most if not all people would be media literate, multimedia literate, visually literate, and transliterate.

In his book The Empire of Illusion, Chris Hedges charts the recent, sudden rise of postliterate culture within the world culture as a whole.

Author Bruce Powe, in his 1987 book The Solitary Outlaw, wrote:

See also


  • The Dawn of the Post-literate Age, by Patrick Tucker, THE FUTURIST Magazine, November–December 2009.
  • The Gutenberg Galaxy, Marshall McLuhan, University of Toronto Press, 1962
  • by Marshall McluhanGutenberg Galaxysummary of
  • The Empire of Illusion, Chris Hedges, 2009, ISBN 978-1-56858-437-9


  1. ^ Bruce W. Powe, The Solitary Outlaw (Lester & Orpen Dennys, 1987); cited by John O’Leary, Popular, Informal Education, Presented on TVO Big Ideas, Published 07/29/2011 [↩]

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