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Return of the Prodigal

I’ve begun to consider the possibility that my brain does manage to wrap itself around these evolutionary shifts in digital technology without extreme difficulty. Which in turn suggests that perhaps this recurrent process helps to keep my brain active and young (or, more precisely, youth-like) by pushing me to learn new skills, to replace old habits with new or revised ones, and in one way or another to get some exercise for the mind. In short, I’ve begun to weigh the mental-health benefits of living la vida digital, with its steady reconfiguring of my neural pathways. [...]

Jack Kerouac: Tech Pioneer (3)

Tools cannot and should not ever be considered neutral. Whether tangible (a hammer and nails) or intangible (any given language), tools encode assumptions and biases, some unconscious and some not, built into them by those who invent and refine them. Those assumptions and biases are sometimes idiosyncratic but almost always cultural. [...]

Jack Kerouac: Tech Pioneer (2)

Considered as a technological invention, what Kerouac’s typewriter-plus-scroll prefigures is . . . the word-processor document file. A space for writing as open and lengthy as you want it to be. Automatic word-wrap, automatic pagination, a new “page” within the document as soon as your text overruns the last one, nothing to get in the way of the pulsing of your words and the evolution of your idea. [...]

Jack Kerouac: Tech Pioneer (1)

Jack Kerouac’s famous “scroll” of the typescript for his landmark 1957 novel “On the Road” is an iconic artifact, due to the cultural impact of its content, but its treatment (however reverential) as an oddball, one-off experiment masks its maker’s insight into the technology of writing and its prophetic relationship to his medium’s future. [...]