One thing that’s caught on with civilization is the whole “literacy” thing. Which, strictly speaking, may not be required for tribal life, but I think is quite fun. I’ve been thinking about the things that will differentiate pre-civ primitives from post-civ primitives, and I think widespread literacy may be one of them. My reasoning is that it’s almost entirely a mental skill, which can be passed on without complicated education, and the marks can be made on almost anything with almost anything and still convey meaning. The only way that kind of skill will fall out of favor is if it proves useless, which I can hardly see happening.

But I’d like other’s opinions on the matter. Do you think literacy is here to stay, or will future primitives drop it? Why?

What a good question.

I think that future nature-based tribes (I have trouble w/ the word “primitive” and prefer “nature-based” or “indigenous”) will rely upon written communication much, much less often than we do. But I certainly think that reading and writing will find a certain niche usefulness. I can definitely see it used for communication between tribes, and in certain circumstances within a tribe (as a phase of conflict mediation, for example).

Another question: what kind of transformations can you imagine writing to undergo? Letters replaced by pictographs, like a sign language? When people live in closer connection to nature they will probably prefer to respresent a characteristic of an owl rather than writing the letters o-w-l.

I sort of have the impression that writing will be around for a little while, but will ultimately prove more trouble that its worth in any quantity. Why write when the person you want to talk to with is likely very close by? And in my impression, stories are better told than read. They are dynamic that way, and I think with face-to-face contact, the old novel pales in comparison. There’s context, relevance, nuance and inflection in our voices that text has a hard time living up to. There will be no need for laws or accounting (a prime reason cuneiform was invented in the first place) and the energy/time spent learning to read and write might be better placed elsewhere.

I think the key is the static nature writing can imbue into culture. I’ve long felt that it slows cultural development by putting myth and language into some sort of stasis. Look at how the bible has done for cosmology and ethics all over the world… Something that was meant for people thousands of years ago in the middle east is now everywhere nearly intact (contextual, copying error and translation issues are a factor) because some dudes wrote it down.

My thoughts aren’t for any lack of love for writing on my part. I’ve written calligraphy for 20 years now (just got mad loot for wedding invites, woo!) I just don’t see humans needing or wanting it in a thousand years. The only exception I can see is BlueHeron’s thought for some kind of pidgin for brief inter-tribal communication between shindigs.

As for changes in the meantime, a lot of our scripts are created for 2 major purposes: speed of writing and ease of reading, both applying to bodies of text. Once people stop writing huge texts for lack of easy ink and papers and domestic animal skin parchment, I see change happening fast, probably initially in favor of concision. Lots of accents and diphthongs at first, giving way to drawing. Less abstract pictographs will probably eventually become the norm for pidgins as languages spread apart and some become nearly mutually unintelligible. At that point, writing may once again reach a practical equilibrium. Full circle.

I can think of a few things writing would still be good for. The first would be signs. For instance, if there is spring who’s water is poisonous, then you could leave a rather permanent mark on something nearby to indicate this.

Second, several different languages often share the same written form, especially if the language is pictographic. I mean, the different versions of chinese can’t speak to each other, but they can write to each other.

Lastly, I think some form of mail for inter-tribe communication isn’t out of the question. You could leave messages at drop points that many groups pass by frequently.

i kind of wonder how well something like quipu would work for those purposes.

Wow… that looks pretty cool. I’m sure it would be handy under friendly circumstances. There are lots of variations that could be done on the idea, like a large abacus or something. Good call.

If we ever lose literacy, we can just learn it again from the Lichen people. For better, or worse.

Willem, that picture is really awesome - runes in lichen, who would have guessed? Where did you get the picture?

I definitely agree with blueheron and konscii that writing could be useful for intertribal communication, and i could see how the multiple spoken languages having one written form plays into that. I also really like the quipu idea, I once did a project on the inca and was amazed that they had no form of writing, and that became even more amazing as I was looking at re-wilding type stuff and the connection between writing and civ. THe signs thing also really makes sense, but where do we draw the line between literacy and drawing? Cave paintainings could have left a message, but were they writing? Are the symbols on the doors of bathrooms writing?

I also think that writing, maybe even printing could be really useful in the future in order to spread ideas and maintain diversity of ideas. Look at all the diversity and flowering of ideas that was made possible by the printing press.

The line between literacy and drawing is when you can convey abstract concepts such as “danger” or " anti-authoritarian." Things which have no real world component to depict.

However, I think you are right that the two will be very closely related. I think the future holds more comics than books.

Reading and writing will always be necessary. I do think it will become more off a specialized skill… Doctors and Dentists will still be needed, and their large medical libraries will still be used. Most common people will only learn basic reading and writing and basic math within a hundred years or so. Eventually literacy will return, but in an evolved form. Traditional english language will not exist, and the “rules” will be gone a sthe language becomes more fluid. this is already evident as text messaging has changed how youth see language.

after the collapse, there will be a greater emphasis on conveying information in an easily understood and easy to remember style.
specific rules of the language will be abandoned in facor of “user friendly” language.

i’m not sure how far into the future your forecasting, but literacy has never been “necessary”. non-human animals don’t use it, and civilizations have only used it for a few thousand years. and there is definitely a difference between drawign and alphabetic literacy. check out The Alphabet vs. The Goddess, it’s a very convincing positing of the idea that as cultures become more literate, they become more patriarchal because of how the literacy affects the balance between left and right brain thought. alphabetic literacy requires the abstraction of symbols, ie, and “A” looks nothing like the sound “a”, whereas a picture of a king, looks like a king, no abstraction involved.

Ai’m not sure if its good to keep writing going, but ai think ai’ll give it a try anyway. Ai just like reading, ai guess. :-\ Maybe this is one of those few things we can raid from the civ.
Does anyone know if a cob house (or adobe, etc.) would be a good storage place for books and papers? Or would more climate control be nessesary for long-term storage (cooler temp. or something)?

[b]do we have to throw out the baby with the bath water?[/b

i freely accept that ‘civilization’ has been a bad idea. perhaps, as douglas adams suggests, “it was a bad idea coming down from the trees in the first place.” but literacy is a divine gift. the art of writing was a gift from the gods in many mythologies.
if we have to give up the cumbersome atributes of civilization, do we have to lose our gifts too?
giving up literacy means losing keat’s and shelley, wordsworth and coleridge, shakespeare and goethe, the beowulf poet and homer. and the list goes on [size=8pt]and on[/size] [size=6pt]and on[/size]and on[size=4pt][/size]…

First of all id like to point out that a gift does not necessarily mean that it is a “good” thing. A gift can be poisonous, corrupting, beautiful, tasteless, honourable, and so on.

Also, this is one of those cases where we act like Civ has a monopoly on stories. I call bullshit on that! with a vengeance.

Literacy comes in many ways. The one we are most familiar with is the phonetic alphabet. But, what about the indigenous people that read stories from their landscape? They have stories much more meaningful then shakespeare can ever be to us, because they can actually live those stories in daily life.

The end of literacy means nothing. Stories lie embedded in the landscape, in ritual and tradition, in daily life. We won’t lose great stories and " masterpieces" we will be able to connect to them on a much more meaningful level.

There are other types of literacy too, pictorial style writing that connects us closer to real experience is an example of that.

Phonetic alphabet reflects merely ourselves and seperates us from the lifeweb arounds us. This is literacy’s greatest flaw.

Id say this: if you can read your experience of the living land around you, you are more literate then any civilized person will ever be.

take care

In regards to rewilding your “language” , perhaps sign-language (deaf langauge) is a good way to go.
In regards to rewilding your “literacy” Perhaps pictographic languages could be used to relate more intimately when writing something down. (show don’t tell?)

i see you rail against lettered literacy with fairly eloquent prose.
do you find this ironic?

certainly, there is more than one kind of literacy. we all descend from tribes that told stories around the fire. the ability to read and write does not threaten that at all.
wordsworth read the message in the land and wrote it in poetry that can evoke tears. poetry is an oral art, even in written form. it should be read aloud, and shared.

i, for one, would mourn that loss.

Spell of the Sensous by David Abram(exellent book) makes a good case against phonetic writing, the argument being that it, like most abstract technologys, disconnects us from nature and empowers the illusion of a strictly human world. So PHUCK phonetic alphabets and learn to memorise like people did back in the day. That way knowlegde post-civ can evolve, not remain static till the books turn to dust. If need be, use pictograms with clear associations to nature.

The written word is a tool, and like many tools it can have its uses and its drawbacks. It can be used for oppression, or liberation. Literacy has been pushed by different groups for both of those aims. I think it is just another case in which we can use the “tools of the master” to dismantle the regime, if we’re conscious about the realities of the written word.

[quote=“bikerdruid, post:17, topic:801”]i see you rail against lettered literacy with fairly eloquent prose.
do you find this ironic?[/quote]

I’ll be honest with you and tell you how i feel.

Im not sure if we’re on the same level here. This forum isnt about making “witty” remarks to blend in like some other internet forums. Short answer is: No i do not find this ironic.

[quote=“bikerdruid, post:17, topic:801”]certainly, there is more than one kind of literacy. we all descend from tribes that told stories around the fire. the ability to read and write does not threaten that at all.
wordsworth read the message in the land and wrote it in poetry that can evoke tears. poetry is an oral art, even in written form. it should be read aloud, and shared.

i, for one, would mourn that loss.[/quote]

I propose again that story would not be lost because of no literacy.
“Do not mistake the finger that points at the moon for the moon itself”