writing at electric speed

In my last post on entangled thinking I referred to how the advent of Print almost 600 years ago changed the face of Europe. In 2006, as I was going through the editing and re-writing process for an academic article, I noted how limiting the print medium is, especially when transferring what was originally a series of blog posts to create the basis of the article. Adding hyperlinks was more natural to me than using the APA format, which I had used for many years, but I now viewed as a relic of a bygone era. What originally changed and flowed on my blog became a piece of static content. As a blog post, my article had built on previous posts and was open to comments and additions. With the print article, it seemed as if my learning process had been frozen in time.

We now have the printed word at electric speed which Marshall McLuhan predicted that —“At electric speed, all forms are pushed to the limits of their potential.” On social media, especially Twitter and other short forms of posting, the written word gets pushed to its limit and reverses to a new form of orality.

I have found that the the best way to communicate with a distributed team is in writing, especially when you factor in multiple time zones. I think that good writing skills will become critical in a distributed workplace. In 2020 Prodoscore looked at 90,000 data points from 7,000 workers. One interesting finding was that high performers regularly used voice & video less often than low performers. The tool of choice for high performers was messaging & chat.

how workers communicate 2020

Having worked at a distance from colleagues and clients for 19 years, this makes intuitive sense to me. However, I came across some disconfirming evidence today, as this national teachers association states that it is time to — “decenter book reading and essay writing”.

“Members of our discipline have long recognized how print literacies work in tandem with multiple modes of expression (Multimodal Literacies Issue Management Team, 2005). Students should examine how digital media and popular culture are completely intermingled with language, literature, and writing. The time has come to decenter book reading and essay writing as the pinnacles of English language arts education. Speaking and listening are increasingly valued as forms of expression that are vital to personal and professional success, and with the rise of digital media technologies, they now occur in both synchronous and asynchronous formats. The ability to represent one’s ideas using images and multimedia is now a valued competency in a wide variety of professional careers in the knowledge economy.” —US National Council of English Teachers 2022

Does this mean that writing skills are not as central to our work as other skills such as using images or creating video? Or does it mean that academic writing, which I complained about in 2006, has less value in a digitally connected workplace? Perhaps writing is not dead but rather it has just accelerated to electric speed.

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