The Manual Typewriter Ideal : Monkey See One new essay from The Guardian rolls up all the objections to digital culture in one place.
NPR logo The Manual Typewriter Ideal

The Manual Typewriter Ideal

manual typewriter.

The Guardian ran this piece yesterday in which writer Tim Adams opens with a quote from author Don DeLillo about how much he loves his manual typewriter:

I need the sound of the keys, the keys of a manual typewriter. The hammers striking the page. I like to see the words, the sentences, as they take shape. It's an aesthetic issue: when I work I have a sculptor's sense of the shape of the words I'm making.

Adams goes on, among other things, to (1) posit that DeLillo's writing could not have been written by a person using a computer, because that person would have probably been too busy flitting about; (2) approvingly quotes a "rant" taking the position that because of the Internet, people don't go to bars or have sex anymore; (3) repeats, over and over, that "we" are lost because "we" have lost all our connectedness (this is another example in which "we" means "other people, but definitely not me"); (4) reveals that he apparently thinks David Denby invented the word "snark," and (5) uses Stephen Fry — who still tweets many, many times a day as an example of someone who is (wisely, in Adams' view) turning away from technology and social media, apparently because of one thing that Fry wrote about blog comment sections.

More, after the jump.

It's a piece worth reading, simply because of the way it consolidates so many different pieces of the anti-digital-culture ethos into one place. He doesn't just hate Kindles because he doesn't think it's real literature unless you read it off paper with your eyes (too bad, visually impaired people! eat a bug, cultures relying on oral traditions!); he believes that great writing itself is impossible if you have access to distractions: "It is impossible to judge whether the 800 pages of Underworld could have been written on a computer, with all its inbuilt distractions and dead ends, but I'm guessing not." (He is a more dedicated writer than I am if he needs the Internet to become distracted, incidentally.)

Here you have the concept of blogs as primarily personal diaries, which hasn't been true for ages; here you have the idea that most online communication takes place between total strangers who are pretending to be other people (the classic "on the Internet, no one knows you're a dog" business); here you have a comparison of the effects of the Internet to Nazi Germany; here you have the claim that online writers never have editors and are never accountable for anything they say because everything is anonymous; here you have the argument that reading a novel on a Kindle is more like playing Nintendo (because they both have buttons) than like reading the same book on paper (because the same words are being read by your eyes and transmitted to your brain).

How much of this is true is up to you, of course, to discern, but if you're looking for a distilled version of what people who hate the Internet believe about it, it's pretty much all here.