Writing in Digital Spaces vs Analog

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The prompt for this week’s writing log asks us to analyze in what ways writing digitally has altered our writing style. However, this is a question I can’t truly answer. You see, when it comes to digital communication, There is no true “before” or “after”, to compare, it simply “is”, because:

(From The Dark Knight Rises by Christopher Nolan)

True, I remember a time before the internet: I remember the screaming robot sounds of a dial-up modem, and I remember getting my first rocketmail account in 7th grade. But, no offense to the struggle of middle-schoolers doing homework everywhere, there was not much “composition” being done in those days. The internet was available when I had to write my first research paper (using AltaVista, not Google). I may not have been doing programming or “digital writing” myself, but I played video-games through primary school. The point is, even if I was writing in an off-line context, my patterns of thinking in terms of composition had already been affected by the inputs of technology.

For example, I have always been a non-linear writer. If I know my third paragraph has something I want to say, but not yet the second, I can freely jump around. This non-linear style of writing comes courtesy of digital word processors. Writing by hand one can’t predict how much blank space would need to be left on a page, but in Word I didn’t need to guess: I could format it afterwards. Likewise, I’ve always written very quickly and relied on the ease of editing digital composition allows. The process of “planning” and “writing” occur somewhat simultaneously. Why make an outline before-hand when one can expand on point II.A.2.b. when inspiration strikes in the immediacy of the moment.

This style of writing follows me in the analog of “meat space” as well: I keep numerous post-it notes, napkins, paper plates etc with scribblings in pen marks that later have to be made cohesive in a digital format. Of course now, with a smart phone, I can simply write them down as digital notes to myself, then select all, and paste them into a word processor to edit.

My natural bias is to want to say that digital writing tends to more allusions, because hyperlinks allow for quick and easy understanding of references, but this is not truly the case. It is easier to understand allusions now, but footnotes always existed in the back of books. How much easier would it be to read T. S. Elliot’s The Wasteland online with hyperlinks to every source? It seems that creative works such as his, or such as Pale Fire, were proto-digital compositions: works that were written for a more interconnected medium that had not yet arrived. My “blog” today starts with an allusion to The Dark Knight via an embedded youtube video. My images contain sub-script with links to the sources, but also (again) in-joke allusions with direct links for those that need explanation.

The immediacy of hyperlinks to allusions gives readers the ability to easier know what a writer is talking about. And knowing is half the battle.

My text is aligned center, not left justified, because it will better be read on mobile platforms in this way, or for desktops with mis-adjusted desktops.

It is always difficult for me to answers these “how did you take advantage of the digital space” questions because I feel I’ve done so since the beginning. And I don’t mean just the (1) beginning (2) of the (3) class. I mean the beginning of my life.

The “GeoCities with dancing cats” website, AIM chat, sicky green sepia Game Boy in the back of a car on a road trip to avoid “are we there yets”, 56k modem beginning, anyway…