Michael Wesch’s closing banner in his “The Machine is Us/ing Us” video resonates a powerful message about the way technology has morphed into what it is today. Baron even states, “writing itself is always first and foremost a technology.” Text can no longer be confined to one strict definition, and its variety of manifestations are off-limits to no one. We are exposed to so many forms of media every single day. Even those who cannot necessarily read have access to digital manifestations of text such as radio broadcasts, music lyrics, television shows, movies, etc. Having at least one home computer with internet access is simply expected.
Writing has expanded far beyond the pen and page. In his article “From Pencils to Pixels,” Dennis Baron poses the question of whether or not the computer will reach the same ubiquitousness in the future that the pencil has reached. I think Baron may be predicting something that is not as far off as he believes. Aren’t computers already well on their way to an omnipresence in our lives? They are nearly everywhere we go. Most of us even carry a pocket-sized “computer” device on our persons at all times. While they are still dodging the blows of critics, their hardly something that can be erased from existence. Computers have grown to be such a staple in day-to-day tasks: communicating, networking, researching, recording, entertaining… the list goes on.
Wesch makes the point that digital text is more flexible than hand-written text. Anyone can produce it. Many websites, such as Wikipedia, have open authorship. This can create a problem with honesty and copyright. It’s so easy for us to automatically the validity of a text because it looks “official,” but Wesch wants us to know that more consideration has to be given to such a multi-channeled system of communication.
Although even I have my own personal reluctance to fully dive into the concept of abandoning traditional writing practices, I have already gotten in knee-deep. There’s no way of turning back anymore. Just as we cannot un-invent the pencil, typewriter, telegraph, telephone, we cannot undo the development of digital media and communications. Even for those of us who spent the first half of our lives without 24 hour connection to all corners of the planet, it’s difficult to imagine reverting to a full day without a cell phone or the internet.
Just as it took years upon years for Henry David Thoreau and his predecessors to “perfect” the pencil, it will probably take us more time than it already has to polish the computer into a master machine of flawlessness. However, we need to be cautious; too much open-endedness can potentially cause a lot of harm in the long run.
I have included a link to another video of Wesch’s that relates to “The Machine is Us/ing Us.” It makes a lot of about the same concept of rapidly changing technology, although with more focus on the information that is available to us.