After reading these articles, I find I am unable to come up with a satisfying thesis to unify these works. Although I found them the most difficult, Reid’s and Ong’s articles seem to work the best in finding related approaches to the functions and/or effects of writing on human consciousness.
Reid discusses the reduction of binaries, focusing on the bridging of internal and external in the creation of consciousness. Once the thought becomes external instead of purely internal, the external world would be more able to affect it. It then makes sense that the medium could affect thought, unlike the Platonic conception where it was untouchable by the technology used to record it.
(As an aside, although my understanding of the ideas discussed here is shaky at best, I wonder if the changed notion of authorship ties into this bigger idea of consciousness. If there is no set notion of authorship, how does this change the consciousness of an individual working on a Wikipedia article with numerous other authors as opposed to, say, an individiual essay he or she would turn into a teacher? Is this much different than a pre-internet article written collaboratively with other individuals?)
One aspect of Ong’s writing that struck me was his comment that “new tracks for thought are imposed by the new technologies. And the software of the computer vigorously interposes even another consciouness or other consciousnesses–the programmer or programmers–between the knower and the known.” This may have a number of interpretations, but one way I see it is that whatever operations a given word processing program allows you to do may affect what you write. The software engineers guide how you are able to express certain ideas through choices such as font selection, stylistic alterations like bolding and italics, or the ways in which graphics can be inserted into the text. The differences may be negligible in individual instances, but the implication seems to me to be that over time, writing with Word or Notepad or a WordPress account will change what and how students write. And as is evidenced by the comments from blog posts and class discussion, the mere use of the technology for posting a blog can cause some anxiety, which might affect what is ultimately written. The inverse may be true as well–some students who become nervous when faced with a pen and paper might feel more at home using a computer, simply as a medium where they are more comfortable, where legibility of handwriting is not an issue.
I realize I have gone slightly off-topic here, but it does relate to what a student’s writing output will be. The effects on thinking and consciousness detailed by these writers refute the claims in the Phaedrus that writing only records pre-conceived thought or a Platonic truth, that only fools think “written words can do anything more than remind one who knoews that which the writing is concerned with.” The modern arguments seem to be that writing is generative, and as such, the tools and technologies used to generate the writing will affect what the writing itself will be.