I’ve always been fascinated by how an established communication medium is viewed as more natural and authentic than an emerging one. My reluctance to speak on the phone and preference for email doesn’t make me anti-social. Typing is no less natural than speaking into an electronic device.
Anything that isn’t face-to-face is artificial. Humans are designed to be with each other when we communicate. We evolved that way. Everything else is harder, with more room for misunderstanding, is less fulfilling and, ultimately less enjoyable.
So, when I was discussing handwriting and, by extension, the written word, on Twitter earlier it made me think about this all over again.
Many of the core values of Western society are related to the single biggest revolution in communication, the Gutenberg Press. It democratised access to knowledge and helped the spread of ideas, while at the same time ensuring that we had a legacy, a store of (almost) everything we’d achieved.
So, it’s understandable that a future without the written word is hard to picture. It’s in our blood.
The Internet is the single biggest revolution in communication since that Press. And yet we seem to be stuck in limbo. We’ve built an incredibly sophisticated, peer-to-peer communication network and we still have to write. The written word has a lot going for it but it’s also pretty inefficient. You only have to look at the intuitive beauty of the iPad and then try and type on it to see what I mean.
What does a future without the written word look like? I don’t really know. But there are so many different ways to communicate, share knowledge and enjoy the richness of human interaction that I think it’s worth thinking about. I’d have found it much easier to video this but I didn’t. What’s holding us back?