Monday, November 22, 2010

A thought experiment, so to speak

Well now I've gone and done it: unintentionally spouted off a wild suggestion made in a poem...a suggestion that hasn't quit nagging me. Is it possible that writing on the computer is reducing my ability to think and express thoughts clearly? There's only one way to find out!

The rules:
1. Any posts labeled as "Notebook" will be originally recorded in a notebook, and then typed here
2. Only minor edits can be made on the computer (spelling, grammar).
3. Only written sources can be referenced while writing. No Google.

How I got here
I recall (sometime during middle school) learning to write a research paper the old fashioned way. Making an outline, numbering note cards, and then (and only then) penning a paper. Around the time the Windows 3.1 operating system became popular, I started my plunge into the world of technology, eventually getting a bachelor's degree in computer information systems. Something which has only occurred to me recently, is that during my entire college career I never indexed a note card. I spent a lot of time playing around with MS Word: manipulating visual aids (bullets, pictures, alignment, spacing, margins, page breaks, etc.), but the writing itself consisted of rapid spurts of thinking (brain diarrhea if you'll forgive the analogy), with some Googling in between to see if things were coming out okay. After enough thoughts had been dumped onto my computer, and enough information gathered from the internet, it was simply a matter of raking over the paper a few times to make sure verb conjugations matched and grammar was reasonable. Of course, being a computer info systems major didn't require much writing, so these experiences were largely drawn from papers written in general education classes such as history, philosophy, English, and interpersonal skills. My present worries about literary (or even cognitive) atrophy aren't restricted to the computer: also there are simply too many things eating away at my attention. So, I'm going to write the old fashioned way: in a notebook. I'm also trimming my Google Reader to a few blogs of interest. I will focus more on my current book reading list: A Treatise on Probability by John Maynard Keynes, Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton, and At Home by Bill Bryson.  So perhaps the overall goal is to reduce the flow of useless chatter that seems to have become a natural part of my daily life.  Hopefully some modest gains in thinking and writing can be made, or at least the relationship between the two can be improved.


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