Saturday, April 2, 2011

“The keyboard is mightier than the pen", Will modern technology, such as the Internet, ever replace the book or the written word as the main source of information?

I’ve been absent lately and couldn’t update my blog. But, while surfing on Facebook today, I came across a post from someone asking people for help writing an essay. It was in one of the English learners’ Facebook groups (it’s Speak English!), I found the topic interesting, so I’d like to write about it.
The question was:
Will modern technology, such as the Internet, ever replace the book or the written word as the main source of information?
"The pen is mightier than the sword" is a metonymic adage coined by English author Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1839 for his play Richelieu. His line is perhaps more famous due to President Woodrow Wilson’s 1916 re-election speech. But, nowadays, we can modify this saying to turn it into The keyboard is mightier than the pen" to describe the struggle taking place between Modern technology information systems and old-fashioned communication and information means.
I’m typing this text using my computer, I read the topic on the Internet and I’ll post it back via email. Where do ink and paper interfere in this simple process? They, simply, don’t!
I’m not a Hi-Tech enthusiastic, neither a feather and ink cartridges nostalgic. I’m just living my Zeitgeist*. Reading was and still our ultimate source of information, this is obvious. What has changed is, only, the means. Since the dawn of history tangible papers and scrolls (Papyrus was known in Egypt since 3000 B.C.) were the medium that contained information, either by transmitting messages or by archiving information in a form of a book. The dilemma actually, as in the question above, should we rely on Digital supports or on Written word as a source of information?
Honestly, there’s no correct or wrong answer, the only judge is the context. I would, hereby, demonstrate some pros and cons for each means. It’s up to the dear reader to decide whether to opt for the first or the latter.
The written word (Books):

  • Adequate for a cultivated person reading in order to enlarge one’s horizons and run into excessive information. For example, if you are reading a philosophy book, you would start by a long introduction, that has nothing to do with your research if you are an academic searcher, but it would be appreciable for you as a person seeking for extra knowledge.
  • It helped a lot to protect the copyright since centuries, due to the high cost of making illegal copies.
  • Reliable as a source of information, as a concrete printed support with author name and ISBN number (it helps to track the book).
  • Ideal when in the bed or train (mobility).
  • Many people do not have the facility to have a computer at home, or even don’t have access to internet
  • They are more eco-friendly.

  • Information is sequential, i.e. one should browse the document sequentially from A to Z (an index will make it easier, but not too much) to get the information needed.
  • The difficulty (a time taking process) of having one’s copy of a book from a library, especially if it’s in limited edition or a classified document (that would even impossible!).
  • Limited use & availability of a book outside the countries where its language isn’t widely spoken (I, personally, cannot find Japanese books in my country).
  • Information is purely visual, and deadpan. No motion or sound!
The modern technology’s (Internet)

  • Information is random, i.e. one doesn’t need to go through tons of articles or a whole book to find the data needed. All what’s required is a search engine like Google and a couple of keywords to attain the webpage containing one’s desired information. Search engines are indexing all the content available on the Internet ceaselessly; they made it possible to obtain millions of results as a response to a simple query.
  • Information is no longer only text! It takes different forms: video, sound, photos, plain text, animations, etc.
  • The costless & fast copying, publishing and sending process.
  • In the web 2.0 era, information come to us. Social networks (like facebook or twitter) revolutionized the informing paradigm.
  • People are linked together by the threads of their common interests & ideologies, not their geographical locations.
  • The emergence of electronic books readers (Like Amazon’s Kindle) that produce different pages on their flexible screen. These screens should be like paper and very stable against miss-usage and very low-energy consuming.
  • It allowed amateurs and unknown gifted writers to rise and make their way to the light thanks to blogs. (Yore, only famous writers or those having the approval of their editor could publish books)

  • As anyone can publish and modify the content, there are copyright and reliably serious concerns.
  • The intangibility of the digital support, which leads to the age of digital darkness, if technology comes to an end and humanity runs out of electricity.
My personal opinion is: people opt for written text or modern technology as a choice induced by a very subjective preference more than a wise decision (Adult people prefer mainly written text because the only thing they have to do is to have it and start reading it. they’re not quite comfortable with technology. And youth prefer Technological gizmos because they’re acquainted with Hi-Tech, or just because it’s Cool).
Zeitgeist*:n. (German) "spirit of the age", spirit of a specific period of history, cultural and intellectual characteristics of a particular era

1 comment:

  1. This, my friend, was a pretty interesting comparision, that I thank you for sharing.
    Personally, I don't feel much confort in reading a "book" on my computer! I do enjoy watching media, coding, trying out new things, playing casual (or more hardcore) games, and even reading "articles" and blog posts on my PC, but not really "books".
    I'm not going to talk about "the touch of the book in my hand", or "the scent of the old yellow paper", which would be the argument of a more philosophical individual than myself, but instead, I'm going to be practical. It's mainly about focus. I can't just sit in front of my PC, reading a book, and not get distracted! I alway get tempted to check my social networks, my email, watch a video, listen to something, or even open up Bejeweled and play me some rounds! There's just too much distraction, and I can't get the most out of my reading as I would with a book in my hand.
    But there comes technology for the rescue once more! eBook readers! what an astonishing invention! Amazon's Kindle DX, with its printed-like eInk technology, (near) real-book size and amazing battery life! That, me amigo, is every book-worm's dream, including myself ;)