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Forum 2: Pencil technology advances to a point...(get it?)

"From Pencils to Pixels: The Stages of Literacy Technologies" - Dennis Baron, Writing Material pgs 35-53.

Synopsis: An overview of what happens when literacy technologies shift. This article pays specific attention to the history of the pencil. I am intentionally skipping talking about the telephone because of my previous presentation and its emphasis on telecommunications.

Cultural Shifts:
To think that we don't have pencil sharpeners in offices anymore is mind blowing. Today people view computers as the gateway to literacy and “futurologists write books claiming computers will replace books,” (Baron 36).

Benefits of digital text is that is possesses a certain flexibility that written test lacks. Personally I prefer typing to writing any day. In an earlier blog entry I expressed my hate for writing things down.

"I found that I had become so used to composing virtual prose at a keyboard I could no longer draft anything coherent directly onto a piece of paper," (Baron 36).

Writing triggered a cognitive revolution in our development.

I have a strong opposition of pencils that has been going on for years. I even used to do my math homework in pen. The only time that I use a pencil is to sketch a painting out on a canvas before I paint it. But according to Baron pencils aren't all that bad as they are the universal tool for writing.

The pencil was first used to scribe lines. The modern day pencil as we know it emerged in 1560. The word pencil translates as "little tail." Pencils were first tools used by woodworkers and not writers.

The first personal computers cost around $5,000 and were cumbersome. These computers also had very bad and skeptical word processing programs. The rise of digital plagiarism was soon a concern for computer users. Students tend to rely on the World Wide Web today, but things online tend to disappear much more than printed things.

Technology & Authenticity:
Both writing and computers are examples of technology In order to be accepted and catch on any new technology must be accessible, functional and authentic (Baron 37). This makes it understanding why some people still do not trust computers.

The issue of authenticity is one that society deals with in many ways. Using the elections as an example, according to pollster Peter Hart, the number one thing that people were concerned with in a candidate was authenticity. The latest plagiarism accusations against Barrack Obama have led the belief that he is no longer an authentic candidate.

But then again we have to remember that people were once weary of writing to commit fraud the same way they are worried about identity theft today and computer fraud.


1. How have computers changed writing?
2. How many people use pencils to write with on a regular basis?
3. Do you prefer hand writing something or using a computer?
4. When did you learn to write?
5. When was the first time you used a computer?
6. Growing up did your family have a personal computer?

Assignment Link

Comments (3)

If I said that pencil joke was horrible, would I sound too blunt?


See, it's funny... pencil... blunt?

[The sound of crickets chirping.]


"1. How have computers changed writing? (LR)"

More or less, computers have enabled writers to share their work with wider audiences in a much shorter period of time. Computers have also forced writers to rethink *how* they write--we have to consider things like the average attention span of people who browse the Internet, competition with flashing ads and other dynamic visuals, and netiquette (etiquette for the Internet, such as graciously linking to your sources directly, etc.).

"2. How many people use pencils to write with on a regular basis? (LR)"

Probably very few who aren't students. Everyone I know who carries a writing tool with them everyday uses a pen (I suspect because pens are somehow seen as the mature person's tool, while pencils seem childish because we think of them as tools for little kids who are still learning how to write and thus need to be able to correct mistakes--using a pen exhibits a certain confidence). Even in the realm of academia (high school and college), I've noticed that most students today prefer to use pens.

"3. Do you prefer hand writing something or using a computer? (LR)"

It depends on my mood and my need.

There are times when I get a terrible urge to scribble down some thoughts for a story while I'm away from my computer, and handwriting is simply the only solution (if I don't write down my ideas, I'll forget them by the time I get back to a keyboard). Sometimes, even when I'm at home right next to my computer, I'll still choose to handwrite certain things (usually short stories), because (for lack of a better reason) I just feel like it.

I still use computers for most of my writing, especially when I have to churn out a research paper or a news article. I particularly prefer computers when I need to have quick access to lots of information while writing (for which the internet access is ideal).

"4. When did you learn to write? (LR)"

I think I learned to write before I ever entered school. My parents have always pushed me to be a little ahead in my learning.

"5. When was the first time you used a computer? (LR)"

I can't remember. It was either my mom's old computer at home when I was much younger (which I only used to play games and print out pictures), or one of the school computers I used while taking a class to learn how to type efficiently.

"6. Growing up did your family have a personal computer? (LR)"

Yeah, my family always had a computer around (as far back as I can remember, anyways). Heck, now we have 6 computers at home, if you count the 2 laptops.

You really lead the way with those jokes about the pencil Dr. Jerz.

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 28, 2008 2:57 AM.

The previous post in this blog was EL 336: Portfolio I - "Keep talking to me, but let me blog it as you go.".

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