Digital Writing = Impermanent?

To me digital writing is the staggering (and increasing) volume of correspondence that is now being published online. This includes blogs and wikis, online forums of any kind where users write posts. When I think about this I think about some things I have read recently by Nicholas Carr that talks about the technology of communication and its advancement through the ages. Carr makes the insightful point that text itself was once a new invention. The curious effect of the invention of text is the permanence it gives to communication, permanence that was lacking in speech. As time passed and technology advanced, the permanence of our communication warranted a term with a little more weight, publishing. The advent of the printing press in the 16th century especially made publishing a powerful way to disseminate ideas throughout the human species.
Now in the 21st century we have the internet which makes the power of publishing accessible to every man woman and child who has access to a computer. While many people, and especially many educators, appreciate how rapidly the internet is changing the world we live in, I don’t know that many of the people at the helm of our education system fully appreciate how this technology is similar in many respects to the technology that was already at the disposal of mankind.
When Carr talks about the impermanence of human speech, he is correct that the printed word lends a much greater level of permanence to our communication. It becomes thought that can endure through the passage of time. I would argue, or amend, Carr’s observation by stating that the internet and digital writing is characterized by less permanence than our previous technology of tangible bound books and publications. I think the sheer volume of writing that is being published online every day now means that a lot of it is being lost as time progresses. Few to no people are looking at our writing from the past (How many people are looking at our writing that we are currently producing?) and our online communication is taking on the same qualities of impermanence that our speech has and has had since the beginning of human history.


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