Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Socrates didn't like it

I'm not talking about the hemlock.
Socrates complained about writing. He felt it forced one to follow an argument rather than participate in it, and he disliked both its alienation and it persistence. He was unsettled by the idea that a manuscript travelled without the author, with whom no argument was possible. Worse, the author could die and never be talked away from the position taken in the writing.
Alan Kay: Computer, Networks and Education. Scientific American September 1991
In our digital, web enabled post Socratic world we can have our cake and eat it. Print is no longer static. In wikis editing someone elses work is as easy as writing. Through email lists and forums the author can post his manuscript for all to see and invite argument. For me, the media transformation accompanying the growth of the web makes Socrates complaint more meaningful and brings history alive.


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