We tend to overlook the importance of the media that carries the message when it comes to the instrument of paper as it is so ubiquitous in our present age. But there was a time when parchment was the dominant canvas carrying the written or printed word. It was a time consuming, multi-step process to convert animal skin into a usable writing surface and however expensive it was, it was the only option should one wish to produce a book. As the production of paper was introduced it was not adopted wholesale but rather took time before its use had infiltrated all layers of society.
From an article at: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/features/from-pulp-to-fiction-our-love-affair-with-paper
“Da Rold has two main theories about why paper first came into use, both of which have much wider implications for understanding how any technology succeeds. First, it appears to have undergone a phase of cultural acceptance. This did not necessarily involve people using paper to write – it was just as common in late medieval England to use it to wrap up spices or jam – but the process established paper within the culture. Second, paper was actively championed by specific groups of people who found it useful: lawyers, merchants, secretaries and anyone who needed to record financial transactions. Paper was easier for them to use than parchment. “It became convenient because people living at the time decided that it met their needs,” Da Rold says. – See more at: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/features/from-pulp-to-fiction-our-love-affair-with-paper#sthash.lYvFTwTK.dpuf
We live in an age much different and yet in our own way we have seen the roll-out of the technology of phones, cell-phones and now smart phones. The functionality of each of these devices has increased dramatically as entrepreneurs have discovered new demand for connectivity and timeliness of interaction. What was once dependent on rather fixed and material infrastructure can now be replicated in a digital form that obviates the need to interact with the world in the sort of patterns that had for millennium been a necessary fact of life.
We tend to believe that we are in an age of instant communication. But I would argue that this is only true in a particularly limited sense. It may seem outrageous that dispute may be made regarding the capabilities of communication as there are so many channels Television, radio, phone, email, text, internet publishing and paper are the major categories of communication that easily come to mind. Within these groupings there are many more interesting and specifics forms of interaction. What could be better or more complete in terms of communication than that which we are already blessed with?
I will rest the question with you and address it in the future.
“As soon as we start putting our thoughts into words and sentences everything gets distorted, language is just no damn good – I use it because I have to, but I don’t put any trust in it. We never understand each other.” Marcel Duchamp
I am a reluctant speaker. I understood at a young age that words are a poor reduction of the thought that plays within our mind. The distressingly slow transfer of information when encountered in linear text must have been part of the insight into coining the old saw, “A picture is worth a thousand words” (pun intended!).
I would imagine the initial development of writing must have appeared as a sort of miraculous ability, liberating the mind to engage with others in complex and detailed fashion over a great span of time. The evanescence of speech being a limiting factor in the diffusion of culture.
We now have something of the opposite situation. We are swimming in a sea of words; a sea that grows dramatically higher each day. And, although we are not responsible for keeping up with the totality of communication produced each day we also cannot be untouched by the seepage of words, concepts and idioms that enter into our daily work and leisure life.
Now let me switch metaphors. Let us think of words as objects. Words being composed of smaller objects – characters and character composed of finer objects; objects of ink and paper perhaps. Further, we can go up the chain of objects. Words combine to compose sentences, sentences underly paragraphs and so on from books to libraries.
Of course much discussion, even dialogue occurs spurred by the insights gleaned from reading what has been written. Important and positive action can happen through this process. But words can be heavy objects to carry around, to work with and build intellectual edifices.
In a way similar to how mere speech was a limiting factor in communication mere words we speak in conversation disappear and with them perhaps the insight that started the formation of the words. Of course one may disagree with this premise with the note that people engaged in conversation have the ability to remember what has been said and to respond appropriately. However, I would suggest that anyone attending a meeting or simply a conversation has heard a significant point brought up only to be forgotten the next moment when someone cracks wise and the room breaks up in laughter. It is very rare that people can hold focus long enough to concentrate on anyone matter. Even in the event of a “brainstorming session” where ideas are committed to writing we still have no formal, effective way of capturing the crucial interplay between these ideas.
– more in the future!