When I started to draft this essay with my antiquated pad holder and fountain pen, I realized in earnest the impact that the computer interface I use daily has affected the way in which I write and think. It has become alien to start writing in ink. The ink has a permanence that makes me reluctant to start that first sentence, but it is not so on a computer. The representations of my thoughts on a screen, although just as real, flow much more quickly from my fingers than ink from a pen, and are more readily edited. This, I believe, causes a fundamental change in the way we think and behave, and removes the mechanical limitations of writing in alphabetic script from our composition process. I believe that, due to events like the widespread adoption of the word processor, the limitations and excess of writing will be eventually be removed, until we are left with writing in its purest form, with an input method so simple and efficient that everyone will be able to use it.
Certainly, the way we must think a sentence through in our minds before putting it to paper has an influence over our daily thought processes. That is, it did, until the rapid transition to an electronic way of writing. An experienced typist can probably type faster than he can compose an essay, but the same cannot be said for an experienced writer using a pen. With a more rapid mode of composition, and easy editing, it is easier than ever to write. The rapid input of the keyboard allows quick composition of whatever is on one’s mind, without “unnecessary” time spent while slowly handwriting and writing numerous drafts.
Well, what then of the emergent personal expression that comes with writing? You wouldn’t know that I originally wrote this in blue ink, with terribly formed letters, and with a fountain pen. The display of these uniformly spaced fonts on our screens, reduce writing’s extraneous message. The printed word and pervasiveness of word processors are an example of remediation. They make reading and writing more immediate by shortening the lag-time between a thought, and the completion of the hand movements that are necessary to put it to paper, or by removing those distracting aspects of handwriting that draw away our attention. So, now, my sloppy handwriting won’t distract you from the meaning behind my words. Instead, Times New Roman, point 12, will greet you with its legible and open arms. Maybe someday, the screen and the limitations of your visual system won’t be there to distract you either. I believe that we are gradually removing the excess of media. With each innovation, we are removing something which hinders our experience or productivity. One day, the film grain of our movies will be nonexistent, the black levels will truly be black, and the colors will be perfect. One of these days, we might even be able to “read” as fast as we think. This, I believe.
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