The Future of Text

It seems to me like the nature of text and reading is changing…

The other day, a friend of mine at work remarked about the fact that we no longer “read” that much. The comment came up in the context of discussing a recent book that none of us had read.

I disagreed with her. I actually think I read more today than ever before.
However, rather than sitting in a library plowing through a pile of dusty old philosophy books trying to weave together a thesis on epistemology with old words, today, I read hundreds of 140-character snippets from people I follow on Twitter, while bouncing back and forth to “web pages” of news articles from various different news sources. At work, I toggle between browsers and bloomberg and print out research reports, half of which end up half-read in piles on my desk.

What this means to me is not that we are reading less, but rather that if (this might be a big if) my behavior is any indication of how people will consume content in the future, we might even read more content just in different forms.

This leads me to believe that new genres of text-based creativity should emerge – and likely are already emerging – as we use new tools and interfaces to consume the data we consume.

One of the frustrating elements I find – and part of the reason I find myself “blogging” less – is that although Apple makes phenomenal content-consumption devices, my iPhone and iPad aren’t great for creating text-based stuff. I also think voice-to-text might not be the right answer either – typing and writing words on a page are different than speaking them – the cycles of feedback to the visual-input-system (eyes) make the creative process work better than the auditory one.

Maybe this means that people will make better and different adaptors for my Apple devices, or maybe we’ll come up with a new form of text that better comports with our content-creation devices. Or more likely, my frustrations might be unique to me. Maybe things will remain the same.

Either way, it is fun to think about this stuff sometimes. We are almost in the second-decade of the twenty-first century. The future might be here soon…

One thought on “The Future of Text

  1. hmf284

    In my circle of friends, we consume substantially more content than ever before, due to a combination of e-readers & i-Phones/i-Pads – though Twitter has shifted my reading away from books in favor of articles & commentary on current events. In fact, a daily challenge is figuring out which 10, out of 20-30 things that look worthwhile, are the most important to read.

    As for content creation, I do think voice-to-text holds increasing promise (eg, Dragon Naturally Speaking 11), though I agree, it seems unlikely replace writing/typing for high-quality or more serious content.

    In the meantime, I’m impressed with the innovation from Posterous & Tumblr – and ideas like Paper.li. Nonetheless, I think you’ve tapped into a widely shared frustration, & it’s hard to imagine our current tools and interfaces not looking substantially different in the near future.

    Reply

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