I have had a look at what’s called ‘IText’ in the paper IText, Future Directions for Research on the Relationship between Information Technology and Writing (IText Working Group, 2001) by Cheryl Geisler of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the rest of the working group.
I find their enthusiasm uplifting:
These texts form a new page in the story of the coevolution of humanity, culture, and technology in ways that give them new function and significance. Texts, already technology for communicating at a distance, are deeply embedded in cultural, cognitive, and material arrangements that go back thousands of years. Information technologies with texts at their core—the blend of IT and texts that we call ITexts—are, by contrast, a relatively recent development … In a few short years, however, these ITexts have initiated social and material changes that appear to be altering the very character of texts and the interactions of those who use them.
Their research agenda builds on research activity in the areas of rhetorical theory, activity theory, literacy studies, genre theory, usability research, and workplace writing. Quoting the descriptions from their paper:
• Rhetorical Theory. Rhetoric is a design art, a goal-directed activity similar to engineering and architecture in its regard for practical effects in the future and in its need to be socially responsible and ethical.
• Activity Theory. Activity theory, based on the work of Lev Vygotsky and Alexei Leontiev, provides analytic tools for studying how ITexts function within human activity. Activity theory is particularly useful in examining the text-mediated interaction of multiple participants as organized in the patterned social relations of activity systems that vary according to the practices and cultures of social collectivities.
• Literacy Studies. Literacy studies examine how reading and writing are used and function in the daily mental and material lives of individuals, in the work and interactions of social groups, and throughout large cultural movements.
• Genre Theory. Texts link readers and writers by using typified generic forms, or genres, that signal texts’ function and meaning.
• Usability Research. Working with IText requires us to reevaluate and rearticulate our understanding of textuality. Although all texts, strictly speaking, are technological artifacts, ITexts lie on the far end of the technological spectrum—the bleeding edge, where the two ends of the terms technology and communication overlap each other in critical and exciting ways.
• Workplace Writing. In the workplace, texts are stereotypically treated simply as one of the means by which communication occurs.
- Literacy studies suggest that to be literate does not mean to possess a set of discrete skills but rather refers to a way of doing, a way of functioning within complex communicative situations. Literacy is in fact a complex of abilities and knowledge that enable individuals to function and contribute in specific situations.
The course of literacy development is complex and life- long.
I am not sure of what the actual work product became from their effort, but I have emailed Cheryl Geisler and told her about The Future of Text Symposium.