Wednesday, June 6, 2012
How Will Our Writing Technology Evolution be Studied?
In 2012 we have much different ideas when we hear the word ‘technology.’ To most of us, technology means computers or a similar medium. Thinking this way is to our own detriment. We are so focused on finding the latest and greatest forms of technology that we don’t focus enough on preserving what was there before.
There has been an extensive progression from types of writing such as cuneiform and hieroglyphics, through the era of the printing press, to how we write today (mostly through the use of computers). We can see the evolution of pictures and writing by the pieces of the puzzle that scientists and historians have put together for us. But wouldn’t it be nice to have more pieces of the puzzle? Archaeologists and Anthropologists spend their careers trying to interpret the meanings of the earliest writings. But the question that often runs through my mind is: will they ever know exactly what they were saying or will it always be an educated guess?
In “History of Writing Technologies,” Chapter two of Handbook of Research on Writing History, Society, School, Individual, Text Charles Gabrial discusses the movement through time and the evolution of different writing technologies. “Like papyrus, parchment could be produced relatively cheaply, scrolled easily, and transported from points of origin; but unlike papyrus, parchment did not crumble with age and could be reused” (p. 24). What wasn’t discussed, as they moved from clay to papyrus, parchment, and paper, was that recordings on earlier forms were probably not transferred to the new ones because it was different civilizations that were developing these new writing forms. The gaps and divisions between the civilizations may have caused clues and fuller understandings of these civilizations to fall through the cracks and be lost forever.
Instead of learning from these past mistakes, we are continuing to repeat them. For example, if a person in the year 2012 was to purchase a new computer, it wouldn’t be equipped with a floppy disk drive as the one they purchased in 1996 did. In fact, that person may have purchased and replaced two computers in between those years. The smartest people were the ones who took the information from all of the floppy disks cluttering their desks and transferred that information onto flash drives before buying their 2012 computer when floppies were almost extinct. While others threw their collections of floppy disks in the trash causing the information and clues to our relatively current civilization to be lost with the pieces of papyrus that were destroyed.
The pieces of papyrus, and also the floppy disks, may have contained nothing but unimportant dribble. But if we continue obsessing over what greater things are yet to come instead of also preserving the past and present, the problem lies in that we will never know and pieces of the puzzle will continue to get lost.