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Meanland extract – At the mercy of our instruments

A writer needs their tools.

Chisel
Quill
Ink
Parchment
Chalk
Pencil
Paper
Crayon
Biro
Fountain pen
Notepad
Typewriter
Word Processor
ThinkPad
Personal Computer
Macbook
iPhone
iPad
Tablet

What do all these tools have in common? They help us make permanent that thing that makes us human: language. Language marshalled into journals, books, literary fiction, non-fiction, blog posts, lists – but how do all these tools change the way we write and think?

‘Our writing tools are also working on our thoughts.’

In Nicolas Carr’s now [in]famous Atlantic essay, ‘Is Google making us stupid?’ (which has since become an extended essay in the form of a book, The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains) is, unsurprisingly, a tirade against the internet, and the way it is detrimentally affecting our reading habits, social interaction and concentration spans.

‘Dave, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Dave. Will you stop, Dave?’ is the opening line, and readers are immediately returned to that suffocating limbo space that is the closing of 2001: A Space Odyssey, reminded of all those things we have to fear from artificial intelligence.

2001: A Space Odyssey

But this post is about our intelligence.

Read the rest of the post at Meanland.

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate.

Jacinda Woodhead is the editor of Overland. Her PhD research examined abortion politics in Australia and nonfiction as political intervention.

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