Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Anyone Else Sick of Technology Prophecies?

There are a lot of predictions on the net about the demise of keyboards with the improvement of touch-screen technology and the development of better voice recognition and even gesture-recognition software. The breathless hype claims that soon we'll all be able to use touch screens, just talk or--better yet--act out the things we wish to type, and our computers will faithfully transcribe them with no actual typing on our part.

Maybe most people don't like to type. I love to type; I can type as fast as I can think thanks to a typing class I took a long time ago in high school. Plus, I'm better at organizing my thoughts on the page than I am in saying them aloud; I could never dictate a client project or a novel, but I'm pretty proficient at writing those things. (Well, maybe not novels. But dictating a novel would lead to a big huge incoherent mess.) I'm not looking forward to anyone rendering my keyboard obsolete. I intend to hang onto it with cracked and bleeding fingernails until the bitter end.

Tech articles that gleefully claim the end of the keyboard is just around the corner seem to forget that this isn't a desirable outcome for some of us. Not only do I not want to dictate, use a touch screen, or--God forbid--gesture my next client project into existence, I don't like writing on tiny screens. I don't need a huge, million-pixeled expensive desktop screen like designers use; I just need to see what I'm writing without squinting, and to see both sides of a page without having to scroll left or right. It's not much to ask. So please don't suggest that laptops will soon be the size of PDA's. You're giving me the heebie-jeebies.

This isn't the only dire prophecy for writers. We're all sick of hearing about the demise of the book. Since people are reading less and spending more time online, people assume that readers are reading online--and now that Google is scanning entire books to make their contents available online, who will want to read a stupid paper book?

Well, I do. Those who love curling up with a book don't love curling up with a laptop. You can't read a laptop screen in the bath. You can't read a laptop screen on the beach. Laptops run out of batteries and have to be plugged in; books don't. You're stuck in your uncomfortable desk chair when you're reading on your desktop; you can sit wherever you want and read a book. Plus reading screens for hours makes my eyes squinty; reading books doesn't. Yes, I read news and some blogs and articles online--but it is absolutely no substitute for a real book.

All of these advances in technology are bad for both writers and readers. My hope is that as technology evolves, it will consider the wants and needs of those who still love and live by the written word--instead of steamrolling over us in the interests of progress.

5 comments:

Genn Stone said...

YES!! Working in publishing with the advent of the e-book i have to say i hate everything about technological shortcuts. E-books are still another screen to stare at. They have no texture, no smell, no substance. Reading a book becomes a great chore as its just one screen after another. Don't get me wrong, its brilliant for reading manuscripts, but it lacks a feeling, a physicality, that always makes me feel sad. Don't get me started on crackberries and all the other electronic shackles we've created to keep ourselves working and plugged in always. I could go on for ages..or vomit, hmmm, i don't think either of those are appealing.

ShelleyP said...

{"Crackberries" - good one, Genn!} I'm with you ... no-one's taking my keyboard from me OR my books. I'm trying to cut my internet time drastically because it's too easy to be whirled off into the void and lose hours that I could be spending writing or reading a darn good book that I can hold and have a relationship with! It's tough to break the addiction, but I will. (Tomorrow.)

allanmcdougall said...

I'm a writer and I'd be happy without a keyboard. My colleagues wouldn't, though, because my voice is so loud. Anyway, I think you're being recalcitrant by suggesting this is bad for readers and writers. You'll never be forced to use other technologies; you'll just have the option.

Either way, it's a cool topic.

Joanna said...

My husband and I were just talking about the difference between holding and reading words printed on paper as opposed to on the screen. In our case, we were talking about the demise of the newspaper, which he reads every morning while sitting on the couch and drinking a cup of coffee (usually with the kids climbing over him). You just don't get the same thing from a computer screen.

I love to type also, and would not do well having to compose my thoughts out loud. However, there are a lot of things I love about technology (like blogging! and my soon-to-arrive touch screen Blackberry). And I'd venture a guess that those writers who came before us lamented on the demise of the typewriter, and the ones before them of the handwritten manuscript.

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