More and more attention is being paid to the notion of writing in the 21rst century. This report just came out and it’s got some stuff that is well worth reading. However, the irony that I am posting this on a digital thread on a ning, well… in a way, if you are already reading this, it’s like preaching to the choir.
Having said that, there is no doubt that the world is changing under our pens and keypads. The idea that students in the next era will have to be competent writers using 3,000 words, 300 words, 30 words, 3 words and no words to express their ideas is somewhat of a leaping off point for comprehending both the opportunities and challenges of the era ahead.
Yet, while writing changes, shifts and morphs I am not fearful because the importance of critical thinking rises with these new mediums — instead of diminishing. In my estimation, thinking seems to be more important than ever as weighing, evaluating, synthesizing and applying brain power appears to be more important than ever to the writers and readers of the 21rst century. I mean so many folks are bemoaning the demise of newspapers but it’s not the black ink which smudges on our fingers in a semi-hard to navigate linear, non-interactive transmittal of information in an environmentally unsound paper-wasting business model that people are decrying… what they really fear is the art of real journalism is being supplanted by bloggers who have no training in the art of effectively verifying information. If newspapers die, I am not sure we care. If journalism dies then democracy is at risk. Now on one hand, the first hand twitterers and bloggers who are on the scene at things like the Mumbai bombing provide some of the most insightful information into what happened at the scene of the disaster — so the bloggers and twitterers certainly have their place. On the other hand, if people don’t pay for their news, then the NY TImes, Washington Post and so on, do not pay real journalists to go investigate, illuminate, and communicate the salient facts (i.e. the perpetrators, their motives, the impact on a geo-political scale and so on). Twittering an analysis of the international complications which arise from destabilizing governments through attacking civilians seems as if it might be a bit lightweight. (Huh? 140 characters isn’t enough space to get Kissinger-style insight into the circumstances? You are just so old fashioned, Mr. Alan!)
Now I am not so quick to defend traditional journalism because they let a buffoon like George Dubya pull the wool over our eyes with the whole WMD farce which really cost America… well, I am not going to go there. But traditional, mainstream media drank the kool-aid for the neo-cons who were hell bent on invading Iraq under a cooked up WMD scenario so all the things which I fear traditional journalism is supposed to defend us against and represent is on shaky ground with me. However, if world news devolves to the point that a 15 year with a blog is on equal footing with a pulitzer prize winning Chicago Tribune reporter in terms of disseminating our news, I do feel there is some cause for concern.
So what does 21rst century writing look like? That’s easy — it looks like a lot of things… and it’s evolving. But how do we effectively think about writing — both while we are doing it and when we are reading it? These, seem to me, the real questions.