My answer to that question keeps changing. From writing instruments and pencils to the telegraph. Now that transition took hundreds of years. Like the rest of you, I feel like I’ve already adjusted to quite a few “new media” upheavals already.
From transistor radios to record players to eight-track cassette players to DVDs. I can now store all my music in my cell phone.
When I started writing, I pounded out my thoughts and feelings on a manual typewriter. And I do mean “pound.” The sheer muscularity involved caused me to intensely focus on every word — as well as the fact that if I made a “mistake,” I’d have to rip the paper out and start over. No, I don’t remember having any qualms about “what is the world coming to…” and thoughts about the future of literacy and writing when the IBM Selectric appeared. My pinkie finger quickly found the key marked “X,” the self-correcting feature. That technological innovation was obviously instrumental in improving my writing! When I could move paragraphs and words around on a page on a computer screen, free from the limitations of the manual typewriter and the finite space of a sheet of paper, now that felt like progress.
Obviously, this “new media” is different. It’s not like going from pencils to typewriters or typewriters to computers with keyboards. It’s the convergence and the interactivity that’s changed. But like Thoreau and his qualms about the telegraph, I, too, wonder if what we say to each other while we use this “new technology” is really all that substantial, or just a lot of “nothing.”