The first thing she found is that young people today write far more than any generation before them. That's because so much socializing takes place online, and it almost always involves text. Of all the writing that the Stanford students did, a stunning 38 percent of it took place out of the classroom—life writing, as Lunsford calls it. Those Twitter updates and lists of 25 things about yourself add up.
It's almost hard to remember how big a paradigm shift this is. Before the Internet came along, most Americans never wrote anything, ever, that wasn't a school assignment. Unless they got a job that required producing text (like in law, advertising, or media), they'd leave school and virtually never construct a paragraph again.
On the one hand, you may look at YouTube comments and chat rooms and think literacy is going into the dumpster. On the other hand, those are millions of people who would otherwise never communicate a thought in public if the internet were not available to them. Writer Clive Thompson says the new technology has changed the meaning of writing for younger people.
The fact that students today almost always write for an audience (something virtually no one in my generation did) gives them a different sense of what constitutes good writing. In interviews, they defined good prose as something that had an effect on the world. For them, writing is about persuading and organizing and debating, even if it's over something as quotidian as what movie to go see.
Of course, not every young internet commenter will go on to be a Stanford student. Do you see the internet as an aid or a hindrance to literacy? Link -via Metafilter
(image credit: Mads Berg)