I really enjoyed reading Jim Porter’s text, “Why Technology Matters to Writing: A Cyberwriter’s Tale.” His recounting of how his writing changed due to the technological advances he experienced between 1960 and 1995 was really helpful in keeping my (tired) motor running while working on my final project.
My project explores the following questions: “Do new media and technologies have an effect on our students’ writing?” Dennis Baron’s book, A Better Pencil, features heavily in my project, so I especially appreciated the fact that Porter maintains a conversation with Baron in “Why Techology Matters.” Specifically, Porter quibbles with Baron (whose argument is that today’s new writing technologies are no more groundbreaking than older technologies, such as the pencil and typewriter): According to Porter, these newer technologies aren’t just “another pencil,” but rather quite revolutionary. Why? They’re changing the way human beings relate to one another in unprecedented ways; for instance, today’s new media connects people who are further apart, and with a serious quickness. No typewriter or pencil can pull that off!
Reading Derek Van Ittersum’s and Kory Lawson Ching’s “Composing Text/Shaping Process: How Digital Environments Mediate Writing Activity” made me reconsider how technologically advanced I really am (okay, that and the fact that I have yet to obtain a smart phone, even though my moderately tech-averse Baby Boomer mom finally broke down and got one!). After all, for well over a decade, academics have been moving away from paying attention to traditional word processing programs, such as Microsoft Word. Instead, Google Docs (which I do use) and Open Office are what’s “on fleek,” as the young, tech-savvy whippersnappers would say. However, what I found especially interesting was Van Ittersum’s and Ching’s discussion of distraction-free writing tools, which I never heard of until taking this class:
Many of these tools eschew what is sometimes called the “feature bloat” of mainstream word processing applications, and favor instead more streamlined experiences and environments (Van Ittersum & Ching).
In addition, the simplicity of these tools is encouraging us to focus more intently on the tasks at hand. This makes sense to me; after all, one of the major changes new media have brought into our lives is this: serious, constant distraction.
Granted, distractions have always existed, even during the Typewriter Era. However, today’s new technologies are a lot like a needy, barking dog: awesome, but constantly and aggressively drawing our attention away from our tasks. Generally, our society is geared towards using new technologies for multitasking instead of focusing, but multitasking is a big-time enemy to writing, which requires quiet contemplation and focus. For this reason, I’m going to consider integrating this tool into my own composition classroom. Perhaps this tool can help my students learn yet another way to work effectively with new technologies.