3.1028 the quality of writing and thinking (170)

Willard McCarty (MCCARTY@vm.epas.utoronto.ca)
Fri, 9 Feb 90 22:18:16 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 3, No. 1028. Friday, 9 Feb 1990.

(1) Date: Thu, 08 Feb 90 19:59:51 PST (58 lines)
Subject: etext library and Halio

(2) Date: Fri, 09 Feb 90 08:29:28 PLT (27 lines)
From: "Guy L. Pace" <PACE@WSUVM1>
Subject: The Quality of Writing

(3) Date: Fri, 09 Feb 90 12:35:11 GMT (33 lines)
From: Donald Spaeth 041 339-8855 x6336 <GKHA13@CMS.GLASGOW.AC.UK>
Subject: 3.999 Quality of writing

(4) Date: Fri, 9 Feb 90 14:17:00 EST (20 lines)
Subject: Re: 3.1022 Mac/IBM and writing, cont. (41)

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Thu, 08 Feb 90 19:59:51 PST
Subject: etext library and Halio


Yesterday the Governor of California broke the ribbon on a
new building on our campus at California State University,
Long Beach. The building is the world's first no-books library.
It is a very large building with many places for students and
faculty to study. But it has terminals instead of bookshelves.
You can get texts, like Shakespeare's works, online, and you can
use the terminals to order books from the south campus library.

Today a student editorial in the /Daily Forty-Niner/ took a strong stand:


Searching for information is always a tedious task, and with the
opening of the new $50 million North Campus Library, that job
just got easier.

But while it will be much easier to gather information through
the use of computers, we hope that not every future library will
be like this.

Libraries have always been the homes of books, not computers.
Books are, and have always been, the keys to knowledge and
truth. We hope that never changes.

A library that does not have the musty smell of old paper and
book stacks piled to the ceiling cannot really be called a library.

Therefore, we suggest that the new structure on Lower Campus
not be called a library, but an information center that will
streamline the painful process involved in doing research papers.

If a person cannot find a good book to sit down and read in this
new building, it is not actually a library."

If we agree that something is lost if electronic texts replaces
books, then maybe we should also look into the psychic impact
of writing when it occurs electronically rather than with pen or
typewriter. Maybe the students recognize the fundamental
difference between information and contemplative thought.

Could it be that Halio's findings about the MACHINE vs PC
suggest an even more far-reaching impact of computerized
writing technology? Might it be that word processing affects
the way we think and write? Wild idea? This speculation was

Mike Heim

(2) --------------------------------------------------------------31----
Date: Fri, 09 Feb 90 08:29:28 PLT
From: "Guy L. Pace" <PACE@WSUVM1>
Subject: The Quality of Writing

Maybe the question brought up by the article in *Academic Computing*
(I haven't read it, yet) isn't whether the users of one type of machine
are smarter or better at writing than the users of another. My first
reaction was to hold the note up to a Mac friend as evidence that I,
by my use of the PC, hold some monopoly on brains. Turns out it isn't
my choice of computer, but something else.
Anyway, what should be examined in a study of this nature is the background
of the users. It is likely that those more oriented toward print (termed
print learners by some) would likely choose a PC over a MAC. Also, those
print learners would have stronger language skills, generally. Pattern
learners (those who learn mostly through patterns and symbols) would be
more attracted, generally, to the MAC. Their weakness in language skills
would be evidenced in a comparative examination.
What is needed here, it seems, is a more scientific, complete study of
why some people choose one computer over another. The study must cover
cultural and social background of the users.
If I were to make a SWAG as to which computer my TV addicted children
would select, it would be the MAC. But, as I suspect a solid study
would show, the MAC did not cause their poor grammar and lack of basic
writing skills.

Guy L. Pace, Washington State University
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------46----
Date: Fri, 09 Feb 90 12:35:11 GMT
From: Donald Spaeth 041 339-8855 x6336 <GKHA13@CMS.GLASGOW.AC.UK>
Subject: 3.999 Quality of writing

I heard a paper with similar findings at the Fifth Technology
and Education Conference held in Edinburgh in 1988, although
in this case the software being compared were two PC database
packages, one that was command based and one that was menu-based.
I don't have the reference to hand, I'm afraid, although I
remember that the research was Dutch! (And a big help that
is too, I hear you say!) What they found was this. Students
learned quicker with a menu-based system but they did not
develop as sophisticated query strategies as those who
learned on a command-based package. Their sample was
small, about 26 students, 13 of whom who were taught first
on one package or the other, evaluated, tested on the
other and evaluated again. Problems: the sample sizes
are too small; there are other factors besides menu vs
command (e.g. how well designed is the dialog box or
what have you in the menu system?). But I was not surprised
by their findings (if that means anything). I'm very fond
of menu systems, but they do tend to insulate the user
from what they're doing and may get in the way of a proper
understanding of what is going on. Another paper I heard
several years ago suggested that the greatest cognitive
problem that computer users encounter is that their
analogies for the ways computers work (e.g. like humans)
turn out to be poor models, distant from reality. Perhaps
menus encourage the construction of unreal models. (They
try to, after all; desktops, wastebaskets, etc.)

Don Spaeth
University of Glasgow
(4) --------------------------------------------------------------26----
Date: Fri, 9 Feb 90 14:17:00 EST
Subject: Re: 3.1022 Mac/IBM and writing, cont. (41)

Jascha Kessler, that is, not Robert. But here at UCLA, even at ORIon,
hte big l ibrary e-mail hookup, faces glaze, faces, not eyes, when one
uttes the syllable MAC. I go blank looking at IBM menus myself. But I
dont have contempt for IBM, whereas the IBM people seem to sugges to the
our user supporrt staff that mac is some sort of toy, whereas THEY have
those great fat (empty) boxes with big d esks that THEY use. There is
some predisposition to resent the students, who bu y macs, I think, and
some disdain for those who arent engineered into the syste m that IBM,
belatedly of course, offered people with the PC they brought out, a
piece of junk as have been most of their offerings for personal
workstations, off the shelf compents in big boxes with not an idea baout
software in their he ads, or convenience for those who not engineered
into the office culture of the world. Anyone who has read what business
produces int he way of sentences, wil l see how fallacious that is.
Anyway, the paper sounded silly and pointless, I agree, and perhaps
poorly done, and why would it have been done anyway, when th e issue is,
Can you construct a sentence or two? a paragraph or two? Best, and let
us lay it to rest...Kessler here.