Abstract - The Information Society 28(4)

Graphic Literacies for a Digital Age: The Survival of Layout

Robert Waller

Page layout is dominant in many genres of physical documents, but it is frequently overlooked in academic analyses of texts, and in digitised versions. Its presence is largely determined by available technologies and skills: if no provision is made for creating, preserving or describing layout, then it tends not to be created, preserved or described. However, I argue, the significance and utility of layout for readers is such that it will survive or re-emerge. I review how layout has been treated in the literature of graphic design and linguistics, and consider its role as a memory tool. I distinguish between fixed, flowed, fluid and fugitive layouts, determined not only by authorial intent, but by technical constraints. Finally, I describe graphic literacy as a component of functional literacy and suggest that corresponding graphic literacies are needed not only by readers, but by creators of documents, and by the information management technologies that produce, deliver, and store them.

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