Regress my tech

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Danah Boyd has been reflecting on her long lost handwriting skills.

“My ability to communicate without editing has decayed. My patience for creating text at a rate slower than I think has decayed.”

Are we getting lazy? Are we too reliant on technology or are we simply adapting how we work and think to match the new capabilities we have at our disposal.

Personal computers have been around for long enough now that they are a standard, obvious, piece of kit for a technical communicator. I’m 34, and those of you from my era probably won’t EVER have asked whether a PC is part of the provided tools or not, it’s just something that is presumed (asking for a particular spec is different).

So, whilst I still use pen and paper to jot down notes, I don’t ever write anything of any length that way. Contrast that with some letters I stumbled upon the other day, written to my Gran when we had moved to the South of England (there are few in number but her replies are treasured). Written in one go, by hand, I was obviously still capable of editing my thoughts before committing them to ink. These days my tendency is to write first, edit later, publish quickly.

Everything you read here has passed through that (somewhat wonky at times) filter, and it’s a luxury I’ve become so accustomed to that I no longer really consider the process. Editing is such a key part of my written communication, regardless of where it is manifest, that it is now just something I do. It wasn’t always so.

Writing notes at college required on-the-fly information structuring and text editing, due to the simple premise that the less time spent scoring through lines of text the better. I have notes from early training courses which show I still adhere to that principal for at least the first couple of years of being a professional, entire sentences written out by hand with nary a score or embellishment to be found.

Fast forward a few years and my notes quickly descend into random words and scribbled quotes. If I don’t type up my notes the night of a conference, training course or meeting then they take on the cryptographic qualities.

And I guess this is one reason why the prominence of laptops in meetings and at conference venues has slowly risen over the past few years.

The odd thing is that most people acknowledge that note taking works best when pen on paper.

So I’m making a concerted effort to rediscover my inner editor, to take a few extra milliseconds when jotting down notes and thoughts to make sure they mean something. It will take some time but, in the long run, I think it will be worth it.

Technology is wonderful, it has many benefits but sometimes it’s good to step back and rediscover the abilities you used to have.