Writing as Technology While writing itself is not necessary for the telling of stories, history, fact or fiction, the ability to write such things an often overlooked and possibly undervalued technology. For Ong, “writing is a technology that restructures thoughts.”(Ong, pp. 23-50, 1986) In a letter written on 27 January 1988, Walter Ong described his essay “Writing is a Technology that Restructures Thought” as “one of the most important short pieces I have ever got up, with some totally new things in the second half.”(Ong) Writing is not merely an exterior tool, rather a practice that alters human consciousness to the degree which it is, as Walter Ong says, ‘interiorized.’ Experience is then mediated through an internalized sense that this or that will be written. Consider watching a film for school, opposed to leisure; knowing I will have to write about what I see and experience is internalized and will make my movie watching experience different. While the film itself does not change, I change, and writing as technology enters our lives.
Writing, for Ong, takes language out of the act of speaking and fixes oral utterance, an event in time, to written signs, objects in space. It thus removes language, and with it, thought, from an immediate personal, social, and cultural contingency. Writing allows precision like a knife to perfectly communicate an exact moment, mood, and happening. Consider a story you’ve told throughout your life; while the experience exists in the past, your recollection of it lies in the passing present, giving birth to folklore. Often changes are not intended, or even realized, but oration stimulates change over time, it is human nature. Once a story it is written, is on file, documented, established in a concrete space and time, light or darkness. The man who writes his stories will be remembered, not necessarily because he was better or worse than any other, rather he left artifacts, writing on the wall so to speak. It is quite fascinating that as a writer one can communicate such feelings as love, hate, depression, and joy to people they will never see or experience. Imagine touching a soul, moving another human being’s heart through the words you chose to write and communicate with.
Writing is a powerful and beautiful technology that has taken new forms with evolving communication technology. Developing websites was once a highly technical and limited in terms of able users; blogging however has given those with something to say in the world the perfect vehicle. Not only has the means been provided, but the ability to reach around the world with a single word, story, twitter status, is phenomenal. This past weekend I camped at the Sleepy Bear Dunes in West Michigan. It was truly breathtaking, and is one of the many natural wonders of the world. While atop a 400 foot cliff made of sand, staring into the depths of Lake Michigan, I take a picture with my phone, of what I’m certain is the ocean, and post it on Facebook with a caption. Instantly thousands of people can see what I saw from the convenience of anywhere in the world, and be in disbelief of the words telling them what they’re witnessing is a lake. Pictures are powerful, but it is often words that communicate meaning, passion, and satisfaction. The poems I write of the beauty I beheld in those moments will serve as greater justification than any picture I could take.
The writers of the world will tell our story. While the art of storytelling is one of the most fundamental roots of mankind, the writing of our stories is what makes them fact, tangible, able to be recalled, cited, and depended upon. Writing changes the way we interpret experience, communicate it to others, and most importantly, communicate ourselves to the world.