our digits, and digital text
I have tried to speak to my classes of the importance of taking notes by hand- the act of inscribing- writing by hand, imprints words and ideas into our brains. typing, interfacing with the virtual, is abstracted and separated from the tactile manner in which we have evolved to learn. Only by programming, wherein we instruct the machine, do we imprint ourselves into the abstraction of the binary electronic code.
This is not to imply that digital texts are not at some level “there.” This would be to fall prey to the “virtual fallacy” (computing culture’s equivalent to Ruskin’s “pathetic fallacy”). Digital texts are somewhere, but where they are has become increasingly complicated, abstract, even forbidden. We cannot see, let alone touch, the source of the screen’s letters, the electromagnetically charged “hard drive,” without destroying it. Unlike books, we cannot feel the impressions of the digital. The touch of the page brings us into the world, while the screen keeps us out. All that remains of the hand is a ghostly remnant of its having been there at the time of scanning, like the chance encounters with scanners’ hands from Google Books, accidental traces of the birth of the digital record. The hand no longer points, like the typographic manicule; rather, it covers over or gets in the way. Hand was there, we might say.