Monday, July 2, 2007

What I Thought Dune Was Going to Be Before I Read It

I've been working on this idea for a sci-fi novel for the past year or so. As I write bits and pieces of it I will put some of them here. Comment or not, your call. The main character is going to write these paragraphs right at the beginning.

The thing that makes writing on a computer screen harder than writing on paper is the forced linear nature of the computer. Since I can only interact with the virtual paper via the mediation of a keyboard and a monitor, the interaction must happen in terms defined by the media. However, with a piece of paper, the mediation happens only between my hand and a pencil. The media allows me much more freedom. I can easily orient the paper however I want, write in any direction that makes sense at the time, and fill the margins with whatever notes I need to put down at the time. Any idea that I may come up with while writing, whether or not it is on topic, I can jot it down in the margins without interrupting the flow of my writing. However, on a computer screen, if I have any tangential ideas that I would like to write down, I need to shift to a new file, or somehow change the formatting of the information on the page to achieve the same affect. My tangential ideas either end up in a different document, or they interrupt the flow of the main writing that I am doing. My pages are not littered with extraneous concepts, but neither are they annotated with enrichment material. With a virtual page I can write only in one direction, and it is very difficult for me to productively get off topic.

I think of this as a problem only because of the disconnect between my way of thinking and the method of idea transformation preferred by the current media. I could very easily save my file, put down my computer, pick up a notebook and a pen, and continue writing in a more comfortable media. I would be able to feel the page in my hands, fold it as I would like, write my notes on the back, and doodle aimlessly at the top of the page. My extra information would be saved exactly as I created it. This is analogue. My virtual page takes my information, breaks it down and organizes it for me. It is saved in a much smaller format, can be transmitted and copied with startling ease and can be accessed by other virtual media. This is digital. Neither my digital nor my analogue page is perfect. While I am more comfortable with one, this is mostly a function of the generation in which I was born, the education that I received as a child and an early adult, and the discipline (or lack thereof) in my thinking.

In this way media, effects the way that I save my information. As far as I know there is no way of saving information where some of that information is not lost or somehow altered in the saving process. I cannot save the order of the information as I write it down on a page without jotting done numbers next to my sentences. Doing that would insert information into my ideas that does not always need to be there. I could save it with the numbers and then be able to tell when I wrote some sentences out of order and when I took breaks to write in the margins, but then I would have writings on the page that would have to be ignored to be read properly aloud. Alternately, I could write without the numbers allowing me to read the writing as it is on the page without skipping any characters, though this would mean that I may later forget which sentences were written out of order, and when chronologically I wrote certain notes in the margins. Information is restricted by the media in which it is saved.

I think of this phenomenon as a problem. Sometimes I get distracted by a desire to fix this problem.


anna said...

is your book set in the future? because surface


i like this post though it is so true

empty cities said...

Damn, you Microsoft!!!! I mean that's going to be sweet and all but still . . . I like the idea of blending the digital and analogue worlds.

When do we get the flying cars?