This is an oblique take on the "Internet..." thread, and the points I
make here are equally compatible with all the perspectives on literacy
argued in recent posts.
There is a sense in which _all_ cultures, past, present, future are
primarily oral cultures. Print, hypertext, manuscripts exist only at the
will of the oral culture.
Why do we read books? Primarily to talk about them with other people. I
would estimate that a little over half of what I learned in grad school
came from conversation with other grad students around a table in either
the Michigan Union or Metzger's tavern. And I suspect that a good deal
of what each of us has read at one time or another has been in response
to concerns first raised in conversation.
The internet _may_ even reduce the importance of the oral culture
slightly by partly replacing conversation. My snarls at Peter were
primarily to his blocking conversation by focusing on the motives or
character of the participants in it rather than on the ideas expressed.
Were he to develop his ideas in a formal written text, an editor would
intervene between him and me, forcing both of us to focus on subject
matter rather than on persons. E-mail can substitute for conversation
but not for books and essays. An essay on a web site is not really
different from an essay in a scholarly journal: that is, in that case
the medium is _merely_ the medium and does not effect the message.