I have been reading, lately, about writers’ relationships with computers, specifically the idea that the technology used to write (pen versus keyboard, etc.) affects what’s written. Nothing new in that discussion, but I have noticed one thing: that whilst most writers say that their work is different depending upon what it’s written with, and that therefore they prefer some modes of writing over others, there seems to be scant discussion about how this can be beneficial. A different technology, I mean, can (must?) bring a different perspective.
Take, for example, cartography: some map-makers produce ‘upside-down’ world maps, on which Australia is at the top of the page, and Europe and the USA down below. It’s the same map, with the same shapes and words and colours, but it makes us look at it differently, and we maybe see things that we mightn’t have in the conventional layout.
So why does a similar thing not happen when reading or writing on the screen? If the upside-down map challenges our assumptions by presenting something familiar in a not-so-familiar way, why does a book on screen not? Why all this jabbering about the ‘death of the book’, if the book, through computers-and-the-web (as it were), is living on in far greater diversity than ever before?!
Well (despite thinking that modern technology means that we read much shorter sentences than we did two hundred years ago), I’m rather deciding to give this whole digital delivery thing the benefit of the doubt — for a while at least. I am using things like Project Gutenberg and Wikisource to typeset books after my own designs; writing my own email client so that writing emails is first and foremost about writing (and not all this ‘organizer’ bollocks); and generally reading books on paper but writing about them on screen.