What it means to write: Handwriting in the age of technology

Charged with many crimes -- encouraging theft (music, movies, ideas), giving us impersonal and inadequate replacements (blogs, texting, emailing), facilitating shortcuts both in critical thinking (wikipedia) and in spelling (texting again) -- technology appears to have another imbroglio brewing: causing the death of writing by hand. The issue falls along the same lines as many arguments dealing with advances in technology, namely a nostalgia for and valorization of the old versus the high expectations for and valorization of the new.

Whether handwriting will ever be dropped from curricula in favor of keyboards remains to be seen. What is more interesting (at this point in time) is the argument raised by Anne Trubeck in her article, "Is Handwriting Going the Way of the Dodo Bird?," which takes the stance that yes, handwriting is nearing obsolescence, but that is a good thing.

Laying out a fascinating trajectory of writing-- from the Sumerians, to the Romans, to the Puritans, to the Spencer/Palmer split, to typewriters, and finally to computers, Trubeck asks us to consider the democratizing implications of typing and how screen text can unburden writing from class and gender issues.

From the article:
Handwriting slowly became a form of self-expression when it ceased to be the primary mode of written communication. When a new writing technology develops, we tend to romanticize the older one. The supplanted technology is vaunted as more authentic because it is no longer ubiquitous or official. Thus for monks, print was capricious and script reliable. So too today: Conventional wisdom holds that computers are devoid of emotion and personality, and handwriting is the province of intimacy, originality and authenticity.
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1 comment:

  1. We haven't taught handwriting in years.

    ReplyDelete

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