“The question I am here asking is: In what ways, if any, are our thoughts affected by the shift from the pen or the typewriter to a word processor? My question is not whether thinking about computers changes the image we have of ourselves; nor indeed whether computers do or do not think. What I do ask is: With the word processor becoming our writing instrument, what changes do there occur, if any, in the ways and content of our thinking? In particular, what changes can there be discerned, or expected, in terms of the organization of our ideas; in terms of the organization of our memory – our access to, and summary view of, the ideas available to us; in terms of our concept of time; and in terms of the perception we have of the place and role of our thoughts in relation to the thoughts of others. The notion that thinking – both how we think and what we think – is not independent of the concrete linguistic medium in which it unfolds is of course very much in accordance with Wittgenstein’s position. Not only does Wittgenstein say: ‘When I think in language, there aren’t ‘meanings’ going through my mind in addition to the verbal expressions: the language is itself the vehicle of thought’, and not only does he point out that what we are concerned with is ‘the spatial and temporal phenomenon of language’, but he also repeatedly stresses, and indeed this is one of his central insights, that the meaning of a linguistic sign depends on the circumstances, the spatial and temporal surroundings in which it occurs; that intention depends on context. However, Wittgenstein does not seem to have been alert to the fact that contexts change with the medium; that ‘thinking by writing’ creates linguistic surroundings radically different from those created by ‘thinking by speaking’. Let me come to my main topic by touching on these differences first.'”
Thinking with a Word Processor. (Via The End of Cyberspace)
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