I want to begin with Johnson’s article Information Infrastructure as Rhetoric: Tools for Analysis. As Johnson points out, databases make it so much easier to search for information, which of course is good, right? Because the easier it is to find information we search for, then the more information we have. And the more information we have, the more we learn. And the more we learn, the smarter we are… Right?
Just like my last two posts have been, it comes down to balance. This isn’t an argument about whether or not databases are good or bad, it’s about how to use databases in either a good or bad way. This whole class seems to keep circling around to the “quality vs. quantity” argument. Sure, you’re searching for a lot of useful and important information, but at the speed you’re finding this information and consuming it, are you really grasping any deeper meanings? Are you really grasping any of it at all? Again, it’s not about how much information you can absorb, but how well you can absorb it—how well you critically understand and comprehend the information you are digesting. After all, good digestion takes time. You don’t have to be a Bio Major to know that.
This video I stumbled upon earlier today is very relevant. It talks about the difference between quantity and quality of information when it comes to the internet as well as hyper attention and deep attention. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKaWJ72x1rI
Jumping to Baron’s From Pencils to Pixels, we see the same kind of dichotomy. I sound like a broken record, but again, it’s a matter of balance. Technology and computer usage is not inherently evil, nor is writing with a pencil or doing work by hand inherently slow and inefficient. In today’s world, and looking into the future, we need both. There is an importance in learning to write by hand and read a book the good ol’ fashioned way just as there is an importance in learning how to use a computer and databases and how to type quickly and efficiently.
It is important to acknowledge and partake in the history of our writing that Baron illustrates in his article, but that doesn’t mean stalling technological advancements that can benefit society. I hope I don’t sound too hypocritical here based on what I said earlier, but as great as it is to still write by hand, it may be more important nowadays to know how to type (but knowing both is your best option).
Imagine if when paper first started becoming a thing they made you still chisel on stone tablets every once in a while just because that’s how it was previously done. Now, before you get angry, I know this isn’t a perfect analogy. It’s a bit exaggerated, and while there was hardly any practical use for stone tablets once paper was invented, there are definitely practical uses for paper and pen nowadays. For example, some people have mentioned in their blog posts the importance of signing a signature, or being able to take notes by hand and on the go, or just basic motor skills and all that important muscle development jazz. All are legitimate reasons to know how to write with paper and pen; we just need to make sure we can differentiate between the legitimate reasons and the “just because” reasons. A “just because” mentality is dangerous in the long run and can stall societal advancements—in this case, technological advancements. But anyways, I digress…
The problem isn’t about whether computer usage is bad or not, or if using pen and paper is antiquated and not useful anymore—because that is totally untrue. The problem is finding the balance between the two: finding a good way to incorporate technology (the obvious direction of the future) and to remember the power of the pencil (a power which is not going away ever in my opinion).