The verdict is in. The technologies we use to communicate shape the way we think, the questions we ask and the type of conversations we engage in. Douglas Rushkoff posits that we are trapped in a kind of perpetual ‘now.’ A hyper-present, where the past and the future are de-emphasised against the constant connectivity of being digitally tethered to each other. We live in a world where we are ‘always on,’ always ready to interrupt ourselves at a moment’s notice.
Different technologies foster different kinds of conversations. Texting is great for saying, “I’m running 10min late,” but not so great for writing an essay, although that doesn’t stop people trying. Writing by hand is a vastly different experience to typing; it’s slower, it requires more concentration and less interruption, it allows for deeper reflection and deliberation in order to express oneself clearly. There are no cut, copy or paste editing tools available with the pen. What's written is what's intended and this encourages thinking in complete thoughts, as opposed to disjointed and incomplete thinking.
The increasing digitisation of writing has future consequences too. What objects will we leave behind? When we are old, will we hand down a USB drive to our children, full of all the heartfelt emails and Facebook Messenger transcripts that we’ve kept for years? Or will these be lost in a digital wasteland along with our unprinted photos and Cloud-based music? Will the lockets we leave to our daughters contain Nano SD cards or printed photos? What will be the effects of living in a hyper-present world where technologies that encourage instant and ephemeral forms of communicating are valued over ones that force us to slow down and foster deeper reflection and critical thinking as well as offer something physical and personal?
The Write It Down project encourages people to write to each other by hand and to think critically about the role different technologies play in shaping the way we think, the questions we ask and the type of conversations we engage in. The project also aims to make people think about the types of artefacts they will leave behind and what posterity looks like in a digitised world.
Eliot van Brummelen (2017)