Magazine article Technology & Learning

Sentimental Longings

Magazine article Technology & Learning

Sentimental Longings

Article excerpt

Believe it or not, this column arrived at the editorial office of Technology & Learning three hours before I sent it. Well, sort of. It was due at 5:00 pm. My clock in Connecticut read 7:30 pm when I sent it, but it "arrived" at the office in San Francisco before the clock there hit 4:35 pm. Not only did technology let me play the time-zone game to my advantage, it also transmitted my column as an editable file (magazine editors like that) since I sent it as an e-mail attachment.

This is not an isolated incident. As a columnist, feature writer, and news editor I have contributed more than 200 articles and news briefs to this magazine over the past ten years. Yet I've never even once been to the editorial office. I can't tell you what it looks like, or how to get there, and that is incredible to me. It is my first experience in which 100 percent of my work has been done remotely.

Advancing computer and communications technologies enable this type of relationship to exist and flourish throughout the publishing industry. My story is just a representative example of the fundamental structural change technology has brought to magazine publishing. It works because it lowers costs and increases efficiency and productivity. I love it.

Not Everyone Does

Not all writers, however, share my enthusiasm for the power of technology. Some -- primarily pre-computer authors -- long to hold onto a different day and a different way. It's not that they don't use technology, but they miss the feel of a pen in their hands, the growing stack of written pages evidencing their efforts, and the act of licking the envelope as they prepare to send off a completed manuscript. They fear that something important is lost if such things are no longer part of their writing process or experience.

But is something important really lost? Or are these feelings just an expected residual of the transition to a different (if not better) way of doing things?

Moreover, what about those of us who never knew the old way? My first published work was written with Bank Street Writer and Bank Street Speller. There is no longing on my part to "go back" even to that. I see no advantage to writing the old way, because technology has given me the upper hand. …

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