Writing has transformed in so many ways over the years. As a society we have witnessed writing change; and have adapted over the years to change along with it. Beginning in the Sumerian times and continuing until the modern era the evolution of writing is something that has happened over centuries. It has changed so much and so rapidly that nowadays we find it difficult to describe just exactly what writing is. Dennis Baron shows us a handful of the ways in which writing has changed over the years, in his article “From Pencils to Pixels”, where he attempts to show us why writing is so difficult to explain.


Ancient Sumerian Tablet


Baron commences his article by pointing out how often times we think upon the technology with which we use to write, but we do not think about how writing is in and of itself a technology. Something that most people do not know is that when writing was created it was not originally used the way that we use it today. It was created to take stock of trade, whereas today we use it to record speech. Writing has had to adapt to our needs, much like we have had to adapt to various forms of technology. This occurs more and more often as new technologies are created everyday. We see this idea come into play in Michael Wesch’s video “Web 2.0… The Machine is Us/ing Us”.



In this video Wesch shows us that writing is no longer restricted to a piece of paper and a pencil. Nowadays writing occurs in so many different forms, and Wesch proves this to us by demonstrating his work through a multimedia device. In the video one of the main points that Wesch makes is that we are teaching the machine, but the machine is teaching us as well. This is very similar to Baron’s argument that technology has to adapt to us, but we have had to adapt to it as well. The example that Baron uses of how we sometimes need to adapt to technology is through the phone. When the phone was still a fairly new invention people had to learn how to repeat themselves if they were not being understood, or speak loudly if the connection was bad, neither of which you tend to have to deal with in a regular conversation. This is similar to the video in the way that technology is teaching us. Everyday that we use technology it is teaching us new information, or how to use new tools. Either way we must work with the technology to better understand it and learn from it.


The World Wide Web


Another major point that both Baron and Wesch make is that ownership is becoming more and more vague as these technologies advance. Baron makes the argument that as we use the Web for more things the more we depend on the validity of our sources, which as Wesch says, is far more difficult than it ever used to be. Wesch even shows us an example of this when he goes into Wikipedia and deletes a whole page. That is the main point of Wikipedia, that anyone can go in and correct any information that they see fit. However, this makes the question of what/who is credible all the more present whilst using the Web. The ideas of authorship and validity are put to the test because we do not always know what information is legitimate anymore.




Looking at Baron’s article, which starts off with the creation of writing, and Wesch’s video which shows us many of the modern forms of writing, it is easy to see how far the discipline has come, and why it is so difficult to explain. Writing is not what it used to be. It used to be simple, and meant for one thing specifically. Now writing can mean so many different things to different people. Writing is changing us, and we are changing it.