Electracy - The Most Important Skill You've Never Heard Of
How important would you say literacy is? Would you agree that being literate is an absolute pre-requisite to becoming a communications professional? Of course you would. Literacy is one of the most important skills in the world – it’s even one of the leading metrics we use to distinguish between succeeding and failing countries.
But in today’s world, digital media has allowed us to completely break out of the box that limits us to strictly written/verbal communication. Now, we communicate primarily through emojis, videos (Snap Stories, Instragram Stories, etc.), avatars, memes, reblogs/retweets, tagging others in content – you get it, the list goes on. So if literacy describes people who can use words to communicate in effective and creative ways, what do we call people who can do the same through digital media?
Electracy refers to the skills and faculties necessary to,” exploit the full communicative potential of new electronic media.” Yes, it’s literally a combination of the words ‘electrical’ and ‘literacy’ – and no, I didn’t just make this up. Gregory Ulmer, Professor of Electronic Languages and Cybermedia at the European Graduate School in Switzerland, introduced the concept of electracy back in 1989 when he published one of his seminal works, Teletheory: Grammatology in the Age of Video.
Electracy is to digital media what literacy is to print. Ulmer explains that the Internet is to Electracy what school is to literacy. Before there was literacy, there was orality, but now there is electracy – the next frontier. Orality receded when literacy came about, and now, literacy’s value as a skill is waning in the age of electracy.
By observing today’s blossoming young industry of influencer marketing, we can see that becoming a digital media ‘influencer’ is the grand prize – the most popular aspiration for teens and young adults. With the instant fame, fortune, and fulfillment that comes with becoming a digital media influencer (DMI), this career aspiration is seen by many as a straight shot to one of the best careers possible. Today’s digital media influencers (DMIs) have attained the ultimate status of social approval from their peer group and command the highest volume of attention from the most loyal followers.
Unsurprisingly, DMIs are simply the individuals that are the most ‘electricate’ – the ones who understand how to exploit the full communicative potential of digital media.
Advertisers have never seen more engaged and more reactive audiences than those that have been created today by DMIs. As a result, investing heavily in cultivating relationships and collaborations with DMIs is a no-brainer for savvy advertisers. All the advertising dollars being poured into influencer marketing today points to one conclusion – the most valuable skill to have is
Over the next five to ten years, University departments who want to keep up with the communications industry will begin to develop curricula in electracy. We already see that the communications industry is evolving significantly faster than the educational institutions who teach communications – schools and university departments just can’t keep up with the nimble agencies that break new ground every day. Those schools who can develop holistic programs that teach electracy effectively will be the ones that incubate the next wave of digital influencers. The race is on.