Sunday Book-Thought 53

Communication is the process by which culture is developed and maintained. For it is only when people develop language, and thus a way of communicating, that a culture can, in fact, emerge and be imparted. Information, the content of communications, is the basic source of all human intercourse. Over the course of human history, it has been embodied and communicated in an ever expanding variety of media, including among them spoken words, graphics, artifacts, music, dance, written text, film, recordings, and computer hardware and software. Together, these media and the channels through which they are distributed, constitute the web of society, which determine the direction and pace of social development. Seen from this perspective, the communication of information permeates the cultural environment and is essential to all aspects of social life.
– United States Office of Technology Assessment, Intellectual Property Rights in an Age of Electronics and Information (Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, April 1986), p. 49.

Sunday Book-Thought 51

The reality, of course, is that every writer’s individual habits and practices are deeply personal and idiosyncratic, and it is difficult, if not impossible, to extract patterns in support of generalizable conclusions – beyond the intense intimacy and commitment that the act of writing invariably demands. Some writers dictate aloud. Some write longhand and then type their work on a typewriter or computer. Some compose at the keyboard but then print out their work for handwritten revision. Others don’t need the hard copy. Some writers print everything out, mark it up, and then retype it themselves. Others hand it off to an assistant. A few still revise by (literally) copying and pasting strips of text. Some writers find the computer alienating, intimidating. Others see it as an intimate, profoundly unmediated experience. Some writers value the slowness of the pen. Some value the speed of the keyboard. Some chafe at the labor of retyping, others embrace it. Some writers are enamored by the small rituals of the process, the changing of the worn-out ribbon, the bright bell of the carriage return. Others are unsentimental. Some writers require an absolutely specific instrument – or setting, or time of day, or slant of light, just so. Others write on anything and everything, anytime, anywhere. Work your way through “The Art of Fiction” and its kindred features in the Paris Review – what George Steiner, in his own “Art of Criticism” interview, describes as “the largest collection of insight into this of any publication” – and you can find accounts describing all of these and more. The one inescapable conclusion is that our instruments of composition, be they a Remington or a Macintosh, all serve to focalize and amplify our imagination of what writing is.
Matthew G. KirschenbaumTrack Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing ( Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2016), pp. 22-23