Computers, Literacy, and Being:
Teaching With Technology for a Sustainable Future

by Robert P. Yagelski

I. Introduction

Philosopher David Loy writes plainly what many of us believe or sense to be true:

In this century it has become clear that the fundamental social problem is now the relationship between humankind as a whole and our global environment (302).

To unpack such a statement is to begin to illuminate the enormously complex connections among human beings, their institutions and technologies, and the physical world. In this webtext I attempt to explore these connections, focusing on the relationships among literacy, technology, and our experience of the world--what I will call our ways of being-in-the-world. I attempt this exploration against the backdrop of the condition of our planet at the dawn of a new millennium--what environmental studies scholar David Orr calls the "crisis of sustainability."

This crisis of sustainability, I wish to suggest, is to a great extent a function of our prevailing Western conception of self as an autonomous, thinking being that exists fundamentally separate from the physical world. Furthermore, this sense of self is related in complex ways to writing as a technology and to literacy as a set of social and cultural practices.

To identify a connection between literacy and ideas about the self is nothing new, but recent technological developments, especially those related to increasingly powerful and ubiquitous computer technologies, have raised anew important questions about how we understand ourselves and the implications of those understandings for our communities, cultures, and habitats. If Loy and Orr are right--and there is persuasive and increasingly troubling evidence that they are--then those of us most intimately concerned with matters of writing and technology have some responsibility to turn our attention to the relationship between what we do as teachers and scholars and the potentially catastrophic environmental crises we face as human beings.

The purpose of this webtext, then, is to begin exploring ways of addressing this crisis by examining how our prevailing conception of self is related to literacy and in how we conceive of and use technology, and how these in turn are implicated in the crisis of sustainability. I will suggest that we re-examine our uses of computer technologies for teaching and writing such that we construct literate practices and uses of technology that contribute to the creation of equitable and sustainable communities. Central to this effort and integral to the pedagogical proposals contained in the final node of this text is the idea of nonduality as a basis for re-imagining ourselves as beings-in-the-world.

This webtext contains five major nodes:

  1. The Crisis of Sustainability: Harry Potter and Global Warming
  2. Plato Lives: The Western Self
  3. Cyber-rape and the Invisibility of Technology
  4. Alternatives: Nonduality, Inter-connectedness, and Being-in-the-World
  5. Teaching Writing With Technology for a Sustainable Future

Each of these nodes represents a key idea or major point in my overall argument for what I will call a nondualist pedagogy for writing and technology; as such, these five nodes can more or less be read separately. Each has a distinct visual design that is consistent throughout all the pages in the node. The designs change from node to node.

This web is designed to be navigated in at least three ways:

Begin with Part I: The Crisis of Sustainability: Harry Potter and Global Warming, or follow the link to one of the other major nodes listed above.

Works Cited.