Conference to focus on literacy effects and the consequences of digitalisation

A one-day conference entitled 'Books and Literacy: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow' will discuss the nature of digital literacy and the educational and social effect it has on society

During the upcoming Malta Book Festival on Saturday 12 November, a conference entitled “Books and Literacy: Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow” will take place at Sir Temi Zammit Hall in the Mediterranean Conference Centre, Valletta.

The one-day conference, starting at 9:00am, will involve a discussion between Maltese and foreign speakers on how the printing and publishing of books accelerated the mass education of people, boosting global literacy rates. The conference will also take a look at new literacies, such digital, media, and visual literacies.

“If we look at the history of organising information we will see that the humanity strives to organise – and keep for the future generations –  its knowledge,” head of the Department of Library and Archive Sciences Milena Dobreva said, pointing out the role libraries have played in the global spread of literacy and reading.

Asked why temporality is emphasised in the title of the conference, Dobreva said that the idea is to emphasise the fact that our temporal co-ordinates place us in a region of profound transformation. “There is the question of ‘the semantic gap’ which characteri ses the difference between descriptions of an object in so-called natural languages and descriptions in formal languages. We already use technologies which replace the use of verbal descriptions. So it seems we are just moving towards a wider use of our senses and this transforms the ideas that we need to express everything verbally,” she said.

In light of this, one of the questions the conference will raise is whether educators and librarians, and parents are doing their best to help the young generation acquire the necessary skills and adapt to the use of new technologies.

Dobreva added that there is the internet, or digital space, which hosts the so-called ‘open resources’. “Free education has moved into digital space. But besides this natural development, there is the newly acquired ease to ‘publish’ oneself in the digital world. One unexpected consequence of this freedom is that the gap between the various types of ‘elite’ culture and mass culture is gradually nullified. We have not quite understood how these newly acquired freedoms will impact literacy and the younger generations.”

The conference is the product of the combined effort of the Department of Library and Archive Sciences at University of Malta, the Maltese Library and Information association (MaLIA) and the National Book Council, together with the Malta Libraries and the Malta Literacy Agency.

Entrance to the conference is free but registration is required and can be done online at the website of the NBC,