RO vs. RW

6 Feb

Of course I think reading is important. Of course it is “fundamental”. But humans reach far beyond the fundamental. And as I watch my kids grow, the part I cherish the most is not their reading. It is their writing. Since my oldest (now five) was two, we have told him “monster man” stories. Watching his rapt attention at every twist in these totally on-the-fly made-up stories was a kick. But the moment he first objected to a particular shift in the plot, and offered his own, was one of the coolest moments of my life. What we want to see in our kids is their will. What we want to inspire as a will that constructs well. I want to see this capacity expressed not just in words. I want to see it expressed in every form of cultural meaning. I want to watch as he changes the ending to a song he almost loves. Or adds a character to a movie that he deeply identifies with. Or paints a picture to express an idea that before was only latent. I want this Read/Write (RW) capacity in him, generalized. I want him to be the kind of person who can create by remaking. This then is the first difference between Read-Only (RO) and RW cultures. One emphasizes learning. The other emphasizes learning by speaking. One preserves its integrity. The other teaches integrity. One emphasizes a hierarchy. The other hides the hierarchy. No one would argue we need less of the first, RO culture. But anyone who has really seen it believes we need much more of the second. Lawrence Lessig in his latest book, Remix (Making art and commerce thrive in the hybrid economy).

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