Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Digitization.... complete.

It used to be if you wanted information, you had to hunt for it. Check the manual to learn how to use your new camera, look at the liner notes for the indecipherable lyrics, look up a definition in a dictionary. Answer not there? Better hope you have a friend who knows all. Or at least who will enter into a spirited debate with you.

Now, if you are of a certain generation or young enough to have a certain mindset, printed materials will never be your first answer. Google is your best friend, MapQuest a lifesaver and dictionary.com quite helpful. If I'm ever lost or want to know how to get to a new restaurant we decided to go to on a whim after a long trip, do I pull out a map? No! I try to call a friend who I think might have access to the Interwebs (we don't do this often enough to warrant paying more to use the internet on our phone, but that is definitely another option). Of course, this usually doesn't work anyway, since the friend might not be home or might not answer their phone. But it's still my first instinct.

At my job at the Writing Center, though, the stack of dictionaries, thesauruses and reference books are always my first reach. Why? Simply because they are more convenient at that location, but I've noticed an added benefit. There is something timeless about it, feeling like part of a long tradition of scholars throughout history who worked as hard (or harder) as us, using very similar tools, all working together to build the foundations we rest our current research on. Even if most of the young scholars I work with will not devote their lives to study, or even continue beyond undergraduate work, while they are here, they are following the steps of millions before them and continuing in the same tradition. I like books.

No comments: