This essay is the first piece of writing I’ve done by hand, start to finish, since 5th grade

Since I write both by hand and on the computer I found this essay appealing. Kevin Hartnett (whose image I include–the actual image of the essay) writes the entire essay by hand and notices some differences compared to writing on the computer:

This essay is the first piece of writing I’ve done by hand, start to finish, since 5th grade, 1992. I drafted it using a Uniball Signo pen and black notebook while sitting at my desk. I edited it in the same way. When it came time to enter the essay into the computer so that it could appear on this website, I typed it in almost exactly as I’d put it down on paper…

When I write by hand the correlation between the thoughts in my head and what ends up on the page is a lot closer to 1:1. This is good in one sense: When I write by hand the process doesn’t prevent me from putting into words what I already know. It might be bad in another sense: My ideas as they come straight out of my head aren’t necessarily my best ideas; it’s possible that all the reconfiguring I do on the computer produces more sophisticated thoughts and better forms of expression. I don’t know.

Writing by hand also alters the relationship between forming a thought and recording it in words. When I write by hand I almost always form a complete sentence in my head before I write it down. When I write on the computer I tend to start typing at the onset of an idea or a sentence that I then figure out how to complete during the process of recording it.

Put another way, my process for writing sentences by hand looks like this:


Whereas my process for writing sentences on the computer looks like this:


(thanks to David for the tip)

We are in a long-term process of altering our view of what constitutes the ideal intellectual life

The European: Well, seeing that becoming aware of a problem is the first step to doing something about it, how do you believe the adverse effects you talk about can be counteracted? There is, after all, hardly a way to opt out of the modern media economy: I can’t just turn off my computer.

Nicholas Carr: My hope is that we will have a more balanced experience of the technology and become willing to turn it off for substantial periods in order to engage in more contemplative thinking. My view of recent history suggests that we won’t do that and that we will continue in the path we are on. We like to be distracted and technology keeps expanding its hold over our waking hours – for business, social or shopping reasons. The internet is a culmination of a much longer-term social trend that goes back to the beginning of mass media. People place less and less value on contemplative thinking and more on practical, utilitarian types of thinking, which are all about getting the right bit of information when you need it and about using it to answer very well-defined question. We are in a long-term process of altering our view of what constitutes the ideal intellectual life: Moving away from the ideal of conceptual thinking, reflection and taking the big picture and moving to this very utilitarian mode of constantly collecting little bits of information, not really ever wanting to back away from the flow. Society and individuals can change, but to me the trend is in the direction of interruption, distraction and shallow thinking.

(The European Magazine)

What I want from Web 3.0

I don’t want Web 3.0 to predict my buying habits or push products on me. I don’t want it to be an extension of consumerism. I want it to help me put connections together. I want it to help me research and think and find new ideas. I want it to be an extension of my brain, not my wallet. I want it to guide me to the best ideas on a subject. I want it to compare and contrast. I want it to know meaning and context. If anything, I want it to create a story out of my life, looking at the themes and motifs that crop up. And I want it to do this for the world around me.

But that means it must use words, which is why Web 3.0 will be about semantics, and not the ad-driven semantics that ask me if I want a Quiznos coupon after lunching at Subway, but the meaning-guided semantics that make sense of the endless connections I don’t see or realize or begin to comprehend. Which is also the job of the writer, I presume.