The Computer is Viral
J.D. Bolter’s two articles, Writing in the Late Age of Print and Writing as a Technology sum up the new role of writing in the 21st century. Writing in the Late Age of Print does a wonderful job predicting the future of the computer. Writing as a Technology does a good job of comparing the computer and its revolution to the revolutions created by past writing technologies. Both articles do an excellent job summing up the role of the computer.
Writing in the Late Age of Print, written in 2001, almost perfectly describes the role of the computer today. He correctly predicts the future of e-books. E-books have already been invented in 2001, but they were not as prevalent as today, due to their lack of portability. Bolter says on page 8, “Machines have diminished dramatically in size and in price during the past 40 years, and computer screens are becoming more readable. Some portable computers already have the bulk and weight of notebooks, and it is not hard to imagine one whose screen is as legible as a printed page. Bolter also does a good job of predicting the role of printed books in the 21st century. He says that role of books will diminish as more people use digital technology, but they will not completely go away for at least another half century, if not longer. The worst case scenario for printed books is that the older generation will keep books around for a few more decades before dying away. It is hard to imagine any other scenario for books.
Writing as a Technology compares the computer today to the technological inventions of the past. He tells us how each writing technology made writing easier and eventually made the old way obsolete, but not before going through several changes. He talks about how the printing press made books not only easier to produces, but lighter over time. Bolter talks about how each technology shift is a “‘remediation,’ in that the sense that a newer medium takes the place of an older one, borrowing and reorganizing the characteristics of writing in the older medium and reforming its cultural space.” For example, papyrus took the oral tradition of telling stories and allowed people to write them down. The computer continues the tradition of writing down printed words the way a typewriter did, but it allows us to instantly publish it onto the internet. The technological revolution of the 2000s is going the same way that every other technological revolution has before.
Bolter’s two pieces about the computer do a create job summing up the role of the computer. They predict where the computer is headed based up what Bolter observes as well as what has happened with past revolutions such as the printing press. It seems every revolution plays out the same way, including this one. Someday, a new technology will replace the computer and someone will write the same articles as Bolter about the new technology.