4.1168 Technophobia and Writing (4/98)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Wed, 20 Mar 91 16:59:38 EST

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 4, No. 1168. Wednesday, 20 Mar 1991.

(1) Date: Fri, 15 Mar 91 00:44:43 EST (27 lines)
Subject: Re: 4.1160 Technophobes and Writing

(2) Date: Fri, 15 Mar 91 11:02 EST (11 lines)
Subject: two kinds of technophobia

(3) Date: Fri, 15 Mar 91 11:22 EDT (26 lines)
Subject: technophobia

(4) Date: Thu, 14 Mar 91 14:52 O (34 lines)
Subject: Technophobia

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Fri, 15 Mar 91 00:44:43 EST
Subject: Re: 4.1160 Technophobes and Writing (5/123)

The first course paper I ever wrote on my PC with WP 4.2 was, according
to my R ussian lit professor, my best work to date. It may have been a
coincidence, but I think not. The word processor didn't so much save me
time (though it did tha t too), but it freed me from a great deal of the
tedium of writing a course pap er - illegible notes in the margins of
hand-written drafts, retyping pages and pages because of a slight change
(I must admit that in my pre-computer days, I would often note the
desired change to muself, but be too impatient to retype a whole paper
in order to include it), and the spell checker! A gift from God!

Speaking as someone who has taught freshman writing seminar, I can't say
that t he so-called "Pacman" effect has been significant. Yes, students
do occasionall y try to dazzle me with fancy fonts instead of good
thought, but I, too, fairly trembled at the acquisition of
Latin/Cyrillic proportional fonts for use withi n WP51 with my new Laser
Jet II. Oh, the pure aesthetic joy of it!

I suppose that there might be some worry that children growing up in the
comput er age may never properly learn handwriting (remember the
well-founded worries that calculator-toting students wouldn't learn
basic math?) or that a spell che cker might become a substitute for good
spelling, or a grammar checker for good grammar. Being childless, that
worry only just occurred to me, but it might be a valid one.

Lesli LaRocco
(2) --------------------------------------------------------------13----
Date: Fri, 15 Mar 91 11:02 EST
Subject: two kinds of technophobia

There are two general strains: those who find computers too hard and
those who find them too easy. For the latter, I recommend a return to
the use of line editors like ED and SOS. Or perhaps they should write
only on vellum. Or carve on stone with chisels. (They'd certainly have
to consider their words seriously before writing in that case.)

John Burt
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------28----
Date: Fri, 15 Mar 91 11:22 EDT
Subject: technophobia

I've read articles similar to Mendelson's before. I think there may be
something to the theory that INITIALLY students get so impressed by the
appearance of their fonts and laser-printed writing that they forget to
look at content, but once this inital effect has passed, I think
students write better on computers.

Here at The Citadel, some sections of freshman composition are taught
entirely on Macintosh computers. I have heard several talks by the
faculty members involved, and they feel that using computers helps the
students to write better and encourages them to keep working on their
essays longer (and hopefully with better results).

I know when I was in school, if I saw an error in the final draft of a
type- written paper that couldn't be corrected with a moderate amount of
white-out, it often didn't get changed. Now, working in a computer lab,
I see students read that "final" copy and make changes, since the time
and effort involved is much less due to word processing. Some students
print several "final" copies of their papers. Students who are typing
or, worse yet, paying typists, don't make as many revisions.

Kasey Briggs
(4) --------------------------------------------------------------36----
Date: Thu, 14 Mar 91 14:52 O
Subject: Technophobia

Thanks to Skip Knox for his witty contribution: the following thoughts
strike me. I work on medieval philosophy, & it strikes me (in a spirit
of unashamed anachronism) that what a lot of those guys were aiming at
was *HYPERTEXT*, in that probably the main genre was a commentary, & you
got layers of comment, comment on comment, and so on, usually with the
really interesting stuff about 3 or 4 comments deep. Or a lot of it was
written in a question-answer form, again with a lot of nesting...

To put it less anachronistically: seems to me that there are a lot of
assumptions (such as linear order) which have been a part of our
rhetoric *ONLY SINCE THE RENAISSANCE* or so, & if computers are breaking
down these assumptions, well that's just fine by me, I always was rather
bored by post-renaissance writing anyway, & let the technophobes scream
as much as they want, I rather like the idea of our rhetoric being
fundamentally changed by the advent of computers.

(Incidentally, in this part of the world they still publish commentaries
on the Qur'an in a medieval format, small area of text in the middle of
the page with the commentary flowing around it. Very beautiful they
look too.)

Graham White
American University in Cairo