The Olive Tree
Bill Pease responds to Paul Baushatz's guest essay Copying out of the Encyclopedia: Some Thoughts About The Internet.Dear Paul:
I read with interest your cautionary tale, "Copying out of the Encyclopedia: some thoughts about the Internet," in the recent issue of the Fogler "The Olive Tree." My gut-like and instinctive response is to repeat your observation about Pixley's remark -- that your essay is "right on the mark." Yet I proceed with caution because clearly you argue not for the simple life before the computer (in all its varied manifestations), but for the intelligent use of the most sophisticated technology.
I wonder, however, whether most people will listen to what you have to say; whether the instinctive response is not, as you suggest, both that the printout is indubitably true and that it's all there is. Were I thirty I undoubtedly would become an avid computer user, for technology in its own right holds no terrors for me. But I also cringe at the possibility that I too might have been the unwitting and insensitive victim of its very ease and presumed all-encompassingness.
I still wonder whether there isn't something to be said for the slow hard work (drudgery?) associated with ferreting out recalcitrant data as there is something to be said for the slow pain associated (by most) with the process of writing and revision (not that one may not profitably use some shortcuts [such as quickly getting hard copy, which one can then laboriously improve "by hand"]). That, of course, is only to say that the word processing function is merely a super-fast computer (or a doubly super-fast quill pen). The Internet function is another thing, and for carefully managed bibliographic and similar searches it can be an invaluable help. (I must here confess that Jane runs the machine. I do not.)
Perhaps in the end the thing that really bothers me about all of this is speed itself. Is it that we no longer have the time to think about what we have done, whether it in fact has done what we wish it to do? Is it possible that students click on a keyword and so quickly get the "answer" that they incorrectly conclude that that's all there is - simply because the answer comes up too quickly. I wonder. It's rather like some modern music performers who have mastered the techniques of speed to the point that there is little or no music left, or if it is left it is somehow unsatisfactory because the very speed of the performance has destroyed the possibility of listening, of thinking about what was being played - of savoring.
On the other hand it may all be that, as my colleagues have told me for some time, I am simply perverse. Either way, yours was a good essay.Cordially,