ENG 708 2/8/16 Rright to write

Right to write.

First and foremost we have to realize what an age we are living in.  Currently, there is a sprawl of generations that have an absolutely diverse and complex views of what our current technology has brought us. There are individuals that were born before the time of the automobile, before television, and before the internet. Our society has went from reading newspapers for information to an instantaneous 24 hour news media where if an event happened nine hours ago, it is considered old news.

I did enjoy Dennis Baron’s idealization (although depressing) regarding how today’s writers find it difficult to physically write, pen to paper.  I admit that I am one of these “analog” learners that went down the same path as Baron. I admit, when I was in school for my undergrad, there was no Google.  Laptops were not a common place in the classroom. Thankfully I had a state of the art PC with a whopping 20 gig hard drive, which cost me $4,000, and I even had Windows Office. I remember having to write down detailed notes and becoming extremely good at it.  So good in fact, it lead to a legal career.

But I have to face it, over time, I became reliant on technology for writing.  It was faster, easier and it helped me keep track of what I wrote and to whom. I had fell victim to spellcheck and websites like Purdue Owl and thesaurus.com.  Over time, long conversations, and a few cases of wine, I have learned to accept that this was the new status quo.  There was no need to be “old school” with how I writing was done.  It is just that fact that you ARE writing that counts.

It all came to a realization on day with my great aunt.  She was the historian for the local branch of the Italian Catholic Federation, and she has always been a mentor of mine when it came to writing. I came over to pick up her vintage 1960’s Underwood typewriter.  I thanked her for giving it to me and that I would take good care of it.  She asked me what I was going to use it for.  I told her that I wanted to use it to type some class papers. She looked at me funny and said, “Why do you want to do that? Don’t you have a computer?”  This resulted in a lengthy conversation, with two bottles of wine, about writing technologies.  She told me how my great grandfather always debated with his friends about the future of technology and always informed his naysayers that the pencil is a form of technology.  Go grandpa!

So we see how individuals have used technology to improve or expand writers’ potential.  My question to all of you is:

What aspects of writing do you think will expand into:

  1. An art from
  2. Be obsolete
  3. Do you think technology will change over the next 50 years
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2 comments on “ENG 708 2/8/16 Rright to write

  1. Melody, you raise very interesting questions here. I still remember the “dawn of the Internet,” at least the way we understand it today, and was a part of the web 2.0 movement. In fact, I worked for a startup company that developed the technologies that would eventually lead to Google Docs. So we are in the curious position, as you said, of observing large trends of change, which naturally affects composing technologies as well.

    In regards to what you’ve been thinking about, I think that “writing” has a physical, technological component (something Baron talks about) and a content-based component. Things like calligraphy and cursive will likely always have a cult following; I use fountain pens for most of my everyday writing and they are always great conversation starters. I run into other fountain pen users and we nerd out about it. Sure, most people use ballpoints (when they actually use a pen in the first place), but there are some of us who stick to fountain pens because there is something charming about them, even if they are totally impractical. Personalized notes/cards/letters will likely stick around. Post-its around the office won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, either.

    As technology becomes more ubiquitous and affordable (particularly with the latest generation Chromebooks, which are all less than $300), and smartphones develop faster computing power, it’s natural to assume that people will be using pens/pencils less and less. Ultimately, regardless of changes of technology, people have minds of their own and can make their own decisions about which writing implements work for them best. I know students and colleagues older than I am who use laptops to take notes with, and some of the 18-year-olds in my classes prefer handwriting all their notes on good ol’ binder paper. People used to flip out about typewriters, and yet people have continued writing with pens/pencils; people have freaked about movies and TV killing all interest in reading books, and yet more people are reading today than ever, even if the quality of the literature is suspect.

    Undoubtedly, in the next fifty years, we can expect to see drastic changes in technology, but humans are resistant to change and I don’t think it will be as different as so many of us imagine.

  2. Melody,

    You bring up some notable points in your post: particularly, thoughts on how technology has progressed during your educational career and since your grandparents’ generation, and the human tendencies to embrace, reject, or reject-then-embrace new technologies. As Baron notes: “[M]ore and more people turn to the World Wide Web for information […] as students begin relying on it for their research papers.” (Baron, 131) You mention that you “became more reliant on technology for writing,” which is surely the case for current students. It’s fascinating, while a little unsettling, to think of how rapidly technology has progressed in just the last twenty years, and how it has affected writing…for anyone who writes anything. If this week’s readings are meant to give us a backstory on writing technology, they also seem to suggest that, as writers, we (and our current or future students) have many more options regarding how we want to write — how we can compose, organize, and record our thoughts.
    The potential trouble or fear associated with these new technologies is that they will displace older but nevertheless idiosyncratically valuable ones. However, as Baron observes, “[T]he computer is simply the latest step in a long line of writing technologies.” (118) For my part, I am interested in how I can use new technologies to enhance the writing experience for myself and my future students, encouraging more and (by way of rigorous practice) better writing. Although the quality (content, style, form) of student writing is a matter for instructors and students to discuss and develop together (in the context of, say, a college composition course), any method, technological or otherwise, which prompts students to write more frequently is surely valuable.
    Inevitably, people will be resistant to new technologies, as Ong notes of Plato’s concerns over the potential loss of memory and articulation he feared writing would engender. As recent as last semester, in a Pedagogical Reading Theory course, I had considered a “no computers in class” rule in my course design. I thought about this as a way to keep students engaged, rather than distracted by the Internet during class. However, almost immediately, I realized how this limitation might itself limit the learning process. In light of the insights offered by Baron, Ong, and Reid, I am now beginning to think of digital/electronic media as another way into writing, for myself and in my Integrated Reading and Writing postsecondary course design. I would argue that the best case scenario is that all people who write would consider all of the available technologies and use as many of them as they might see fit — from fountain pens, as Ileana’s response suggested, to Post-It notes, cocktail napkins, journals, digital audio recording applications, typewriters, laptops, and beyond — to compose anytime, anywhere. Again, writing with frequency would seem to encourage improvement, efficiency, and, lest we forget in the middle of intensive academic work, enjoyment.

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