Sunday, October 16, 2011

The future of text

As digital media become more a part of our lives, I wonder how technology will affect the standard written-text story. We have the capacity to tell stories through video and audio, and we've had that for decades, and yet text has persisted. Ebooks will give us the ability to interact with narrative (to choose different endings, perhaps?) and to incorporate multimedia (e.g., click on a song title mentioned in the text and hear the song). But I wonder if that will really enhance the reading experience. It's easy to pile bells and whistles onto a text without really adding anything to the meat of the story. It's like decorating a cake with a zillion icing squiggles just because you have a cool icing tool. Does it make the cake taste better?

I foresee two possible paths. One is that text will remain durable, that people will still want the experience of reading words and generating the story in their heads, and they won't want a lot of adornments distracting from the text. The other is that people will find meaningful ways to incorporate the multimedia experience into a text; ways that are essential to the story and not just whiz-bang decorations. It's also possible that both of these things will happen. A big question is: have we been using words just because they were all we had, or is there something the written word can do that no other medium can do?

Wordsmithing is a special way of telling a story--a way I love, both as a reader and a writer. It may or may not persist. But story-telling has always been with us in one form or another, and I believe it will always be with us, no matter how we tell those stories.


  1. I agree. I'm sure when motion pictures came out, people fretted that it would be the end of theatre. The written word has persisted for thousands of years. I don't believe it's going away any time soon. At least I hope not!

  2. That was great. I believe that both paths will exist. As time goes by, the consumer will become more discerning. Right now, they're just too excited about all the new possibilities. A compelling story, with stand-out characters will always endure, in any medium.

  3. I think will persist; as you said, it's a form of story-telling, which has played a part for a very long time. Technology can't change that.

  4. So I have three fans of text. I hope you're right! Even though it could be fun to play with new forms, and I don't rule that out, I've always found the written word exciting and unique.