Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Topic: The Problem with Writing and Technology

Question: How is Bartleby, the Scrivener like present-day writing students?

Answer: They would prefer not to. Why? Because technology makes writing and thinking too easy. The author ends his article with the following quotation about freedom—and the danger of technology to its existence:

“…we (or our institutions) have been mesmerized by technology’s ease and comfort as well as its promise. If this all sounds too curmudgeonly or too deterministic for some, I will end with a reminder from Jacques Ellul, author of The Technological Society, which I now know is as important for composition teachers as it is for students of composition: ‘Freedom is not static but dynamic; not a vested interest, but a prize continually to be won. The moment man stops and resigns himself, he becomes subject to determinism. He is most enslaved when he thinks he is comfortably settled in freedom…. It is not a question of getting rid of [technology], but, by an act of freedom, of transcending it.’ Let us, now, prefer to write.”

Comment: It never occurred to me to realize that the problem with technology and writing is that it makes writing too easy. I remember when we as students did not have word processors and all the adjuncts that come with it. When the word processor was introduced, I saw it as freedom from tedium in writing.

But since people are used to the word processor, freedom from tedium has become boring. It’s too easy not to think and write. Writing by hand or even by typewriter was difficult—the page filled with illegible revisions, for example. Thinking on paper was work because you had to do it by hand or by typewriter—and now the word processor has made writing and thinking too easy. We fall into the trap of not working and thinking. Interesting. RayS.

Title: “Opinion: Teaching Bartleby to Write: Passive Resistance and Technology’s Place in the Composition Classroom.” Gregory Palmerino. College English (January 2011), 283-302.

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