A response to J.D. Bolter‘s ‘Introduction: Writing in the late age of print’ and ‘Writing as technology’.
In our university, there is an Introduction to Writing Arts class, a class designed for Writing Arts majors with an interesting twist to it. The class is divided into three “modules”, where three separate professors teach three separate topics to three different groups of students within the class, on a rotation basis. Mildly confusing, but interesting. Currently, we’re in our first module, “Technologies and the Future of Writing”, which as you might have guessed, deals with writing on the internet and how writing is changed and is changing because of it. For our first assignment, our professor instructed to read two articles by J.D. Bolter, titled “Introduction: Writing in the late age of print” and “Writing as technology”. Bolter is a professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology where he is the Wesley Chair of New Media, and he also is the Director of the Wesley New Media Center.
Writing has always been a malleable entity, though it never changed without a fair amount of fighting within the community; there are always the cries of how ebooks will destroy printed books, or how print books will destroy the chalk slate, and on and on for centuries back to when writing was first invented and threatened to destroy the oral culture. But, as Bolter states in “Introduction: Writing in the late age of print”, “Because of the tension between print and digital forms, the idea of the book is changing. For most of us today, the printed book remains the embodiment of text…we still regard books and journals as the place to locate our most prestigious texts.” (pg. 3) We, as writers and readers, will love the text more than the package it comes in.
Bolter also states in his “Writing as technology” paper that, “Our technical relationship to the writing space is always with us as readers and writers. Literacy is, among other things, the realization that language can have a visual as well as an aural dimension…” (pg. 16). He goes on to mention how as literate people, we know that what we say can be written down and continue to live there, even though what we have said is long over. Words will always be eternal, especially if written. Technologies of writing go beyond just the computer; it encompasses modern day pen and paper, medieval parchment and quills, and all the way back to ancient papyrus and reed pens. But it doesn’t stop there: it goes on to include the lips and tongue. As Bolter mentions, again in “Writing as technology”, “…however, oral poetry is no more natural than writing, just as writing with pen and paper is no more natural, no less technological, than writing on a computer screen….It is not the complexity of the devices that matters so much as the technical or literate frame of mind”.
As long as we have stories to share, writing will never become obsolete, even if the technologies to do so change. A good story will always be adaptable, and so it will always be eternal.