Our Love Affair With Digital Is Over

The other day I found myself very annoyed at how much headspace was occupied by a free game I had downloaded on my phone. So I deleted it. I still go into fight-or-flight mode when I’m drafting a text and a phone call comes in.

I like to page through the my notebooks full of sketches, or maps I made of adventure games I played in the 90s. I also make time to play board games and walk the neighborhood with my son; and to support and participate in local live theatre with my daughter.

But on a typical day, I’m also conscious of the benefits of the digital world.

This time of year I can feel overwhelmed by my marking load, but I actually look forward to hitting the track or the treadmill with an iPad loaded with student papers. As the “calories burned” count goes up, the “unmarked papers” count goes down.

I also like to use the “search” function to dig up fragments of writing I emailed to myself or deposited in Google Drive, or use the Internet Archive Wayback Machine see what my blog looked liked 15 years ago. I like to search and sort through old notes, to cut, paste, and compile; to read from a glowing screen in an otherwise dark room, and, as my eyesight continues its perfectly natural but increasingly noticeable decline, to plug in headphones and listen to audiobooks or the “text-to-speech” tool.

I’m looking for thoughtful essays for my students to read in next semester’s History of the Book. This NYT piece will bring up good topics for conversation.

The limits of analog, which were once seen as a disadvantage, are increasingly one of the benefits people are turning to as a counterweight to the easy manipulation of digital. Though a page of paper is limited by its physical size and the permanence of the ink that marks it, there is a powerful efficiency in that simplicity. The person holding the pen above that notebook page is free to write, doodle or scribble her idea however she wishes between those borders, without the restrictions or distractions imposed by software. In a world of endless email chains, group chats, pop-up messages or endlessly tweaked documents and images, the walled garden of analog saves both time and inspires creativity. –David Sax, New York Times