Computers, the Internet, and a Changing World

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Computers, the Internet, and a Changing World



When I think about the world of writing in the year

2003, and compare it to writing, let’s

say, in the year 1990, the changes that have evolved

are phenomenal. Of course, a person could

argue that change is the one constant in life,

including people, ideas, and technology, just to name a

few. How can you measure and analyze every change

that’s occurred in the world, and its cultures?

If you tried, you’d likely grow old and die before you

could pinpoint every single one. But when it

comes to writing and the writers, themselves, in the

twenty-first century, no longer are the paper

pages of books, magazines, and newspapers the only

source of reading. The internet is a dazzling and

complicated electronic world, where one human can

instantly communicate with another, all with the

click of a mouse. Cyberculture has taken us from an

earlier world, where we used the pen, pencil,

typewriter, and just a computer, to a rapid-fire

electronic galaxy, that enables us to use millions of

pixels to send messages to the world; the most amazing

part of all, is that we can do all this without

ever leaving the comfort of our homes.

Let’s start at the beginning, before the information

superhighway was a part of the

global vernacular. Millions of people like to read

the newspaper, for a variety of reasons; many,

including myself, want to keep up to speed on current

events, locally, and around the world. I tend to

read The Detroit Free Press, The Ann Arbor News, and

occasionally, The New York Times, all good

and, for the most part, accurate sources of news. My

parents subscribed to all three newspapers for

many years, and still do to this day. After I moved

out and began living on my own, I would go to the

nearest store or newspaper stand to buy a copy, and at

times, still do this. However, with the

explosion of internet usage, I don’t have to run out

to the store and spend thirty-five or fifty cents on

one of those papers; rather, all I have to do is turn

on my computer, get connected to the internet,

type in the URL, and I am instantly at that

newspaper’s site, with that day’s electronic headlines

only a few inches from my face. I can read the front page

news, or click a link that takes me to the sports

section, or hit another link that takes me to the

movie reviews.

There are countless texts, long and short, to read on

the internet, and newspapers are

only one example. However, I believe that these

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publications are a good example of how online

writing and writers have improved the way people

gather information, as well as place it on the web.

Before the internet was a regular part of our lives,

written news and information was mainly found

in newspapers, magazines, journals, and the like.

Reading one of these entailed either going to the

store to purchase it, subscribing and having it

delivered to your home, browsing through it at a

library, or borrowing it from someone. Now that

periodicals are published on the World Wide Web,

reading the daily paper takes on a different meaning,

in several ways.

Here’s a good example. I like to read The Miami

Herald online, for a few reasons: first, I

like to keep up on current events in south Florida,

and second, I enjoy reading the weekly columns of

author Carl Hiaasen. I started reading his column

about seven or eight years ago, after I began to

read his novels. At the time, which was about 1996, I

was only able to get a copy that newspaper by

either buying it when I flew into Miami or somewhere

in south Florida for vacation, or get it at

Border’s when they used to supply a host of

out-of-state newspapers. When I became acquainted

and familiar with the internet, I discovered, much to

my joy, that I could access The Miami Herald

and Hiaasen’s columns from the comfort of the

library’s computer lab, or on my own computer.

Easy as at gets. I click onto the link called

"columnists," and then go the link entitled "Carl

Hiaasen," and up comes his most recent column in a

matter of seconds. I believe that this kind of

technology not only has changed the way people read

the paper and other publications, but also has

altered our lifstyles to a point. Why run to the the

store to buy that newspaper, when I can just hop

online and go to the website? We have all the

resources at our fingertips, and only need to use our

hands and eyes to find what we’re seeking.

Don’t get me wrong, though. Just because I am

pro-internet and like to read certain

newspapers online doesn’t mean I have given up on the

real item. Not at all. I don’t think that

online-based newspapers can ever replace the printed

word on paper, which truly requires that a

person use their hands to read one page, and "flip" to

the next one to continue the story. In my

opinion, newspapers are the genuine literary guide to

the world’s headlines. They’re testament that

the world doesn’t actually "need" the electronic

wizardry to be conscious of what’s happening in the

world. It is the internet, however, that makes it

far more convenient to read a periodical from

wherever a person may be located. The World Wide Web

has created the means for people to find

literature and texts through a series of computer

chips, telephone line or cable, and brings the results

with lightning-fast speed.

On the internet, the way we read something is often

very different than how we might

read a magazine or newspaper. In James Sosnoski’s

essay entitled, "Hyper-readers and their

Reading Engines"(Writing Material, Tribble and Trunk,

2003 p. 406), he explains that when

someone reads an online text, or a "hypertext," it is

a system designed for skimming. This is when a

person jumps through and over all the text that he or

she may consider useless in order to reach the

information that’s needed. Many people can and will

do this with printed material, and still

remember much of what they read. But with print,

there is an introduction, body, and conclusion.

Information in hypertexts may contain several bits of

information at once, but not in a normal

reading order like the printed text. Our eyes scan

the webpage up and down and across, until we

spot the link that’ll take us to where our information

sits. If we’re reading a newspaper or a

textbook, we can look through the index or table of

contents, find the page we want, and flip to that

section in just a few seconds, five at the most. If

we go online and find a webpage we like, it’ll often

contain at least a few links that cite a particular

section, and with a slight press of a button, we’re

there in a nano-second.

I believe that the greatest example of how the

internet has changed our lives is how we

communicate to one another by using e-mail. The

concept of typing out a "letter" to a friend,

relative, girlfriend, boyfriend, etc., clicking a

button, and having the message sent to that person in a

matter of seconds has revolutionized the way our

thoughts and feelings are delivered to someone who

could be thousands of miles away. It seems as though

letter-writing by the act of putting pen to

paper has become something of a dying art; but at the

same time, this electronic mailing system has

enabled loved ones living overseas from one another to

communicate on a daily, or even hourly basis.

The price of postage stamps has become stratrospheric

because of this way of sending messages, but

it has proven to be an effective and rapid means of

communication. Just a little over ten years ago, I

used to correspond with several people whom I met in a

youth group, and lived out of state. I had no

computer back then, and there certainly wasn’t any

internet to use, so I would sit down with my

notebook, and compose a handwritten letter to each of

these friends. These days, I almost never

receive any kind of personal greeting through the

snail mail; e-mails are far more convenient and

quicker to send to anyone, anywhere.

In Dennis Baron’s essay, From Pencils to Pixels(

Tribble and Trubek, 2003 p. 51), he

says we have a way of getting so used to writing

technologies, that we start to think of them as

natural, rather than technological. I wholeheartedly

agree with this, because computers are such

principal tools of universities, the jobs, and our

homes, that it is practically unheard of not to have

one around. Although pens and pencils are both still

widely used, computers have become the

primary source of written communication, especially in

journalism, term papers, and the drafting of

any important document. Typewriters are not entirely

obsolete, but are used so seldom that they

have become archaic. Ironically enough, when I landed

by job at WAAM radio, all they had there

were typewriters, and since I had been so used to

using a computer to write, I actually needed to take

a few minutes to re-learn how to use it. It had been

at least six or seven years since I had used a

typwriter, that it took a few minutes for me to study

this relic, and figure out how it worked.

However, even though I make jokes about it, there are

a few famous authors who still use

typewriters; one of them is Eastern Michigan

University graduate and fiction writer Loren Estleman,

and famed Michigan author Elmore Leonard.

I believe that computers have transformed writing into

a different kind creative art,

where a person can compose a well-written term paper,

an email, a webpage, or the like, and use the

computer’s technology to enhance the document’s

appearance. At our fingertips, we can control

and change the text’s size, font, and color with the

touch of a button. We could create an invitation

to a party by using large, fancy letters to make the

document look exciting, and put pictures and

graphics on it to dazzle the recipient. Computer

technology, as it advances day by day, boasts new

and exciting ways to design something electronically,

far more than a pen or a pencil could do. I

know people who would take the extra five minutes or

so to boot up their computer, wait for the

desktop to appear, and then type out a two-sentence

message to someone, rather taking thirty

seconds to scribble that note on paper. Some people

are like that with their television remote

controls; if the remote’s batteries are slowly dying,

they’ll stand approximately two inches from their

TV, and smash the button down, shaking the remote at

the TV, when all they have to do is reach out

with one hand and manually change the channel on the

TV itself. The idea is the same. Technology

has, in many ways, made life much more convenient for

us, and therefore, we have come to heavily

rely on this electronic wizardry to help move our

lives along at a quicker pace.

Computers and the internet have enabled the world to

hone our skills as artists and

writers, in faster and innovative ways. I think that

the Web is a vital source of information and a

place where writer can create a text that,

theoretically, anyone in the world is able to access and

read. Internet sources, such as Blogs, e-mails and

chatrooms, allow people to discuss their thoughts,

ideas, and feelings with humans around the globe, and

communicate them in a matter of seconds.

For people with loved ones in the military stationed

overseas, the internet is a way for them to write

back and forth every day, knowing the message will get

there in a flash. There are still people out

there who like to write letters by hand, and greeting

cards, luckily, haven’t fallen by the wayside.

Pens and pencils continue to have a place in this

world, and aren’t likely to disappear anytime soon.

However, the internet has turned up the speed on

communication as we know it, and gives us the

capability to display our creativity online, and show

to everyone who wants to see it.

One of the big questions we need to ask ourselves is,

has this kind of technology made us move so fast,

that we forget some of the simpler things in life?

Perhaps. But the internet has spawned so many

new and innovative ideas to the world, and has helped

link us to interesting and exciting places.

Imagine what the "Net" will be like ten, or even

twenty years from now. Will it be more

complicated? Harder or easier to use? My guess is

that it will be even easier, and maybe less

complicated. One way or another, the internet is here

to stay, and will continue to be a tremendous

source of contact with the people we know. For those

of us who love to write, I think it will still be a

convenient and challenging way for us to develop our

skills, and keep our mind open to new ideas.

Works cited:

1. Sosnoski, James. "Hyper-readers and their Reading Engines" Writing Material: Readings from Plato to the Digital Age. Ed. Evelyn B Tribble and Anne Trubek. 2003

2. Baron, Dennis. "From Pencils to Pixels" Writing Materials. Ed. Evelyn B. Tribble and Anne Trubek. 2003.


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