Preserving the Old in a Digital World.

The sophistication of our technological world has caught me between a rock and a hard place.

Who doesn't love the ease of the digital world?  Building a freelance writing career is a click away. The ease of networking with other writers provides a myriad of information, mentoring, and visibility. Contacting publishers and editors is instant with email. Blogs, social sites, and online courses abound. Uploading your manuscript is almost as easy as 1-2-3 and all over the world people are reading your book with the convenience of their e-reader.

While these advancements are certainly a plus, it makes me wonder what could be lost. Will the printed book be a thing of the past? Will there be a generation who will never experience taking in the earthy smell of a library, perusing its shelves, and soaking in the solitude? Will sharing ideas and critiques over coffee be replaced with online meetings? 

Sounds unlikely but the more we rely on the digital world, the less we give attention to some tried and true old-fashioned ways.

Maryanne Wolf, developmental psychologist and cognitive scientist of Tufts University states: "There is physicality in reading, maybe even more than we want to think about as we lurch into digital reading—as we move forward perhaps with too little reflection. I would like to preserve the absolute best of older forms, but know when to use the new."

It's possible we could be losing more than just the memory of the good old days. 

When it comes to pen and paper, studies have shown there is more to it than we think. According to the WallStreet Journal, "Virginia Berninger, a professor of educational psychology at the University of Washington, says handwriting differs from typing because it requires executing sequential strokes to form a letter, whereas keyboarding involves selecting a whole letter by touching a key. She says pictures of the brain have illustrated that sequential finger movements activated massive regions involved in thinking, language and working memory—the system for temporarily storing and managing information."

                                                athena. / / CC BY-NC-ND

So, how do we preserve the old in a digital world?
  • Print it. For several years I had a personal blog. I took the time to print and compile the pagesI wanted a history for my children and grandchildren to read someday. Computers crash. Journals, letters, and books are forever.
  • Write longhand. Try writing your manuscript longhand and see if you feel a difference. Write a letter now and then. Finding a box of old, hand-written letters tucked away in an attic is a treasure! I recently read a letter from my grandmother written 40 years ago. I found myself studying her handwriting and remembering her in ways a computer font would not do. 
  • Go to the library. There is something special about a library. It offers an aesthetic experience and a respite from the busy world. If  you have children or grandchildren, by all means take them! But don't you forget to go there, too.
The new way we read, write, and communicate is fascinating. But we must wisely find ways to preserve our heritage. It's helped make us who we are today and we cannot lose it.


Kathleen Moulton is a freelance writer.  You can find her passion to bring encouragement and hope to people of all ages at When It Hurts -


Magdalena Ball said...

Great post Kathleen. It's so easy to lose digital information, or to forget that we don't effectively "own" it. It's so difficult to pass down files. The really critical stuff should always have a backup, and beautiful stuff (art/literature) should always have a print copy.

Kathleen Moulton said...

Thanks for your comment, Madgalena!

Karen Cioffi said...

Kathleen, what an informative post! I had no idea of the benefits of actually writing with pen and paper. While the digital reading formats are convenient, I do hope we never lose physical books.

I read a study not too long ago that found that retention wasn't as good with ereaders. It noted that you would need to read something 2 or 3 times to get the same retention as with a physical book, but I can't find where I saved the information to. :)

And, as Maggie mentioned, you must back up your online work, books, personal information, etc.

Kathleen Moulton said...

Hi Karen, yup I read that as well. Reading is multi-faceted and involves all our senses - feeling/turning the page, etc. And retention was shown by a few studies to be lacking with ereaders.

Thanks for commenting!


Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

I have two different e-readers, but still prefer books. Interesting about e-readers and retention, I wonder as people become more comfortable with e-readers if that will impact retention.

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