Tuesday, March 4, 2008

A Lesson From the Talking Paper Clip

In "Cut, Copy and Paste" Lance Strate looks at the culture of these digital tools in correlation with pre-historic tools such as the stone knife, citing that their evolution is not so far off and in actuality are tied close together through the advent of writing. In the sense that the digital tool kit creates text and other tools, the ancient stone knife could be used to carve other tools as well as markings on caves, which depending on the purpose could be created for aesthetic or symbolic reasons. This connection is what causes Strate to see our society filled with "hunterers and gatherers" seeking out information.
Revolving around the tools of Copy, Paste, and Cut, Strate outlines how these are exemplary forms of the human activity of tool use. The three tools cover an array of basic functions including arithmetic operations (adding, subtracting, division, etc.) and more impressively the modification and manipulation of symbolic and visual environments. The importance of the latter two functions are particularly interesting because they reveal the ability of these tools to edit linguistic reality and in turn, be able to edit reality. However as in other instances of the packet an essential part of this ability relies on the element of written language. Visually, the digital tool kit has allowed creative control and expression to the laymen by allowing documents to be created that resemble the appearance of professional work.
A key point brought up by Strate is the interaction that takes place between the digital tool kit and the G.U.I (graphic user interface). This relationship seems to be equally reinforcing to both elements, as the GUI places a strong importance on the digital tool kit by locating them first and giving them greatest precedence (aside from 'File' commands). However, the tool kit also reinforces the GUI by granting it simplicity and speed. Strate remarks how without the tool kit the windows on the desktop of the GUI would be isolated. Furthermore, this relation becomes unnoticeable to the user after a time, which makes the impact of the tool kit even greater. "Our tools which are often so inconspicuous and ubiquitous, form the deep structure of human cultures". It is interesting that the impact of the digital tool kit is only partially apparent, while we understand the effects it has had on things such as plagiarism and intellectual property rights, there is so much more we are not privy to. This is particularly powerful when considering we are the ones who purposefully give these tools the leeway of being little more than instruments we use to create meaning, all the while not considering whether they alter or influence the meaning we create and perpetuate.

1 comment:

Lance Strate said...

Thanks for the thoughtful commentary. I do think the function of editing has not gotten the attention it deserves, and no wonder--writers typically resent their editors!