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on the, gasp, worldwide web, if you're still
connected -- Baron singles out a few of the
usual suspects in a line-up of the fearers
and loathers: Plato, who thought writing,
the shadow of the real thing, would rot our
memories; Henry David Thoreau, with his
observation that 'We are in great haste to
construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine
to Texas, but Maine and Texas, it may be,
have nothing important to communicate;'
or the inventor of the telegraph, Samuel
Morse, in turn sending out an SOS about a
pernicious new telephone technology.
the new and the good ol' days, though, is
the too-much-information charge that,
web pages, and counting, according to
WikiAnswers, there's simply too much
information. That's a fair charge, Baron
concedes, but adds, 'There's always been
too much to read. Nobody read all the
books at the Great Library of Alexandria'
-- which, incidentally, was partially or com-
pletely destroyed by Julius Caesar's fire in
either the Alexandrian War, in BC 48, the
attack of Aurelian in the third century
AD, the decree of Theophilus in AD 391
or the Muslim conquest in or after AD 642,
according to Wikipedia. T
Baron, D. (2009). A Better Pencil:
Readers, write rs and the digital revolu-
tion. Oxford and Ne w York: Oxford
Unive rsity Press.
Rossmeier, V. (2009). Is the internet
melting our brains? Salon. Available at
better_pe ncil/index.html Retrieved 25
Septe mber, 2009.
This month's Last Word was writte n in
between time-consuming tweets, goog-
les, deletion s of RSS feeds and visits to
Facebook by Steve Holden, Editor of
Te acher, and the 2008 highly commended
winner in the Best Columnist c ategory of
the Melbourne Press Club Quill Awards
for the Last Word.
Google is making us stupid; tweet read-
ers on Twitter are turning into, um, twits;
Facebook and MySpace and suchlike social
networking sites are trivialising ou r social
relationships; our attention span is shrink-
ing as the size of our screens grows; txting
is turning us into phone-thumbing zombies
and destroying the English language as we
know it, yadda yadda yadda.
If you've already read all this sort of
stuff, with googled assistance, probably,
and online almost certainly, you'll know
that the next step in the diatribe is to be
told that we all ought to switch off, grab a
good ol' fashioned book, maybe even shell
out for one of those olde-worlde fountain
pen thingys and possibly get ourselves one
of those single horsepower, um, horses to
get around on.
It's time to step back from the future,
you see, as technology continues its das-
tardly work of transforming our lives for
Yet wait, says Dennis Baron, a professor
of English and linguistics at the University
of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which,
according to Wikipedia, is in Illinois, the
fifth most populous state in the United
States, with an estimated population of
12,901,563, did you know?
Baron, author of A Better Pencil, says the
digital com munications revolution, like most
technological revolutions, improves our lives.
Equally, he points out, most new technolo-
gies, like the invention of the printing press or
the clay tablet or, yikes, writing itself were, in
their day, greeted with fear and loathing, and
a desire to get back to the good ol' days before
the young folks took to this newfangled print-
ing or clay tablet carving or writing.
In an interview with Salon's Vincent
Rossmeier -- available at w w w.salon.com
The last word
Good ol' daze
IF YOU THINK TECHNOLOGY WILL RUIN THE DAY, OR SAVE IT,
THINK AGAIN -- OR CHECK ON WIKIPEDIA OR SOMETHING.
AS STEVE HOLDEN REPORTS, WE'VE ALWAYS WORRIED
ABOUT PERNICIOUS NEW TECHNOLOGIES, AND THE BRAVE
NEW WORLD AND THE GOOD OL' DAYS HAVE NEVER REALLY
BEEN FAR APART.
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