Technology vs The Word

I am sat here listening to early Billy Bragg EPs (yes, that’s vinyl) and pondering over my practice as a writer. I have had some growing concerns over technology during the last twelve months. Now, don’t get me wrong, I have been at the forefront of a technological revolution as a writer, I embraced the web and social media wholeheartedly but I do have concerns when technology that is supposed to assist begins to hinder.

Andrew Oldham

I recently opted to use my iPhone as my new notebook, it sounded like a good idea until I began to realize that ideas jotted down where victims of either predictive text or worse still, they lingered, malingered in my ever increasing notes section. It became like a long list of unanswered emails. I found myself spending too much time at a laptop trying to hammer  poetry into shape and coax prose into life. My handwriting has gone to the dogs. I have forgotten the importance of the word. There is nothing as exciting as seeing the physical word appear from your pen in a notebook or on a sheet of paper. The pen does not have to wait for you to boot up, log on and swear every time it takes an age to warm up or in many cases, hiccups and crashes. The pen gives the word and the word can be spoken but words spoken from the computer screen or a phone are often the preserve of the nutter or the call centre worker, words spoken from a notebook seem to belong to the realm of the eccentric or the student. It always depends on the words spoken though. Technology can also die, a Kindle can cease to be mid sentence, a laptop can fizzle, fry and fuck off mid word. If you are like me as a typist, you may find yourself at the point where you can happily type without looking at the screen – this is a left over from actually having a typewriter – only to briefly glimpse up and find that the screen froze somewhere around page one and you are now 5,000 words in. It happens. Technology has given us a false sense of the self. We all know technology goes wrong but the more we rely on it, the more we get further and further away from the pleasure of the pen. There is something lost in the drafting process too, the screen lures us in, says, ‘Doesn’t it look good? You left aligned it and selected a wonderful font. Isn’t that sexy?’ When the content is less than good and the words are as sexy as roadkill covered in vomited, and it’s not even your own vomit. We have to be wary as writers, to rediscover the need to write by hand, to read aloud and then, and only then transcribe it to the screen. Technology is a sexy beast but it will never out fuck the word.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Viv says:

    I started back with a fountain pen and the glories of Moleskine notebooks. For jotting of random ideas and whatnot, much pleasanter way of doing it. I don’t have a smartphone; mine is resolutely dumb.
    But there’s a balance and I think it’s upset at present, between tech and low-tech.
    Excellent post.

  2. Pat Newcombe says:

    Interesting article. But I could never go back to writing longhand… Nowadays I cant always read my scribbles either!!!

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