Deep Literacy Tool Development




Picture a computer game where you scurry from building to building, the enemy most likely having seen you already. You see someone in the distance coming your way so you hide behind a wall and still they shoot you, straight through the timber of the building you thought you were hiding behind. This could happen because of the flexibility provided by the wall 'knowing' all the properties of a wooden wall and similarly the bullet 'knows' its trajectory, velocity and force. This little moment was not pre-scripted, it was carried out in a flexible environment where you could choose between a wealth of options of what to do - a richly interactive environment.


For tools and environments to support deep literacy they must reward curiosity and this is done through providing flexible foundations and infrastructure giving rise to rich interactions, letting the deeply literate knowledge worker do much more with the material than any author could imagine...


‘Our Age of Anxiety is, in great part,

the result of trying to do today’s jobs with yesterday’s tools’

Marshall McLuhan



why support deep literacy



I find it hard to state how important the development of better and better text environments is, so I'll tell you about the evolution of your hand instead. Around 1.7 million years ago our ancestors went from banging rocks together to making tools by chipping the rocks into useful shapes. In so doing our hands changed. “The forceful, repetitive and sustained processes of tool use, such as digging with rocks, would have made stronger hands desirable” says Mary Marzke of Arizona State University at Tempe in New Scientist 13 April 2013. Our tools are a part of us and have been, for much longer than we have been human.


‘We cannot think realistically anymore of the human species without machines, human nature is now absolutely and indissolubly connected to the machines we create’

Bruce Mazlish


Marshall McLuhan widens the perspective to include media:


‘The new media are not bridges between man and nature; they are nature’

Marshall McLuhan


Mr Smith from Microsoft neatly sums up the benefit of building ever more powerful collaboration systems:


‘Whenever a communication medium lowers the cost of solving collective action dilemmas, it becomes possible for more people to pool resources. And 'more people pooling resources in new ways' is the history of civilisation in... -pause-... seven words’

M.A. Smith, Research Sociologist, Microsoft


I'll leave it to Marshall McLuhan to continue: First, a few words on words:


‘Isocrates was a great speech teacher who believed that it is language which separates us from animals. He believes that there are three essentials for learning, natural ability, training and practice. This is where it gets interesting, he maintained that "learning to speak properly was tantamount to learning to think properly’

Marshall McLuhan


‘The spoken word was the first technology by which man was able to let go of his environment in order to grasp it in a new way’

Marshall McLuhan


The written word:


‘The alphabet was one thing when applied to clay or stone, and quite another when set down on light papyrus’

Marshall McLuhan


The electronic word:


‘The news automatically becomes the real world for the TV user and is not a substitute for reality, but is itself an immediate reality.’

Marshall McLuhan


«Today we are beginning to notice that the new media are not just mechanical gimmicks for creating worlds of illusion, but new languages with new and unique powers of expression’

Marshall McLuhan


‘New media may at first appear as mere codes of transmission for older achievement and established patterns of thought. But nobody could make the mistake of supposing that phonetic writing merely made it possible for the Greeks to set down in visual order what they had thought and known before writing. In the same way printing made literature possible. It did not merely encode literature.’

Marshall McLuhan


And never forget:


‘There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew’

Marshall McLuhan



my personal effort


It's one thing to talk about  and write about the importance of deep literacy tool development, it's another thing entirely to invest to build such tools, but I think it is crucial to make an effort.


I build two primary tools myself, through designing them and outsourcing the coding to experts and experiment on smaller projects and collaborate on the Time Browser project. Your collaboration on this work would be appreciated: