Preserving the Old in a Digital World

Reblogged from Monday, May 27, 2013

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.

Photo credit: Kamil PorembiƄski / Foter / CC BY-SA

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."
Photo credit: kpwerker / Foter / CC BY-SA
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 -


Linda Wilson said...

Kathleen, as always your post is both thoughtful and thought provoking. I have a toe in each world, the old and new, and never want to discard the old. It means too much to me and as you said, a lot can be said for writing works out longhand. Thank you for such a lovely post.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Kathleen, you must have known I needed this. I am switching from PC to an iMac and right now, I'm not at all in love with the digital world. I'm waiting for that aha! moment when I can get joyful about all the new things my beautiful new Mac (27 inch screen) can do for me! And I'm still not convinced that it's the best platform for a writer. But it is beautiful! You can see, I'm wavering here!

Karen Cioffi said...

Great post, Kathleen. It's so true there is the possibility what was will be lost, especially once our generation is gone. But, I do see that my daughters use the library and take out books. And, one of them belongs to a book club and takes my grandsons to the library, so maybe there's hope.

Carolyn, once you get the hang of a Mac, I'm told you'll love it. My daughter, a school teacher, loves it. My son-in-law just switched over and said it's quite a learning curve, at least a month or so before you feel comfortable. Hang in there. As for me, I won't be switching to a Mac unless I no choice. The learning curve from going to one Windows platform to the next is enough for me. :)

Kathleen Moulton said...

Karen, I also "push" the books. Our children and grandchildren, (nieces, nephews) need to be guided in that direction.

And... I agree with you about the learning new Window platforms!

Kathleen Moulton said...

Thank-you, Linda.

Kathleen Moulton said...

Ohhh the iMacs are beautiful for sure!

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