So, here is the question … do we overvalue the idea of reading and writing? As in, in an age where we can communicate in more organically human ways (YouTube, podcasts, etc.) where we can listen to tone of voice and pick up on unspoken cues, is there really a place for writing today?
Didn’t you go to school for writing? See, the purpose of writing, historically, was to create a more effective method of preserving information for future generations. Essentially, it’s a much better version of an oral tradition, which seems to have suffered some from the effects of the telephone game. It’s not as if writing was the ideal method of communication to the masses. That is only a recent historical anomaly. According to Our World in Figures, in 1820, only 12% of people in the world could read and write. Those figures are roughly flipped today, but what that tells us is that writing as a means of mass communication is a relatively short-lived reality.
And yet, we value writing to a ridiculous degree as if there was something sacred about the act. Perhaps this comes from the preservation of holy texts or a sort of mythology of the wisdom of the past. I don’t know. But in any sense, it would be hard to argue that the main purpose of writing has been for a proper communication method to the masses. The numbers and the amount of time where that has been applicable just doesn’t bear that out.
What’s with Rogan? Joe Rogan, a B-list actor and reasonably successful comedian, is one of the most listened to podcasts in the world. For each of his podcasts, he is able to get an audience in the tens of millions. That is craziness. Why, then, would Rogan write a book when every day he can put out a podcast with his ideas, reach his audience immediately, know it will be preserved going forward, and not have to go through some gatekeeping or laborious publication process?
Why, when that is the case, when the long-term preservation of audio and video are just as viable as print, and when a podcaster can reach a massive audience not on a yearly basis, as a prolific novelist could do, but on a daily basis … why would anyone choose the medium of print over more modern means?
And yet, you write this. Of course, there will always be a place for writing. Google, for example, still loves writing over audio/video media. But perhaps we’ve been thinking about writing and the consumption of writing all wrong. Maybe we did turn it into something sacred. And maybe, going forward, the need for writing in our world will disappear, or at least, drastically change form.
I’ve taught writing at the college level, and in so doing, it was easy to feel at times as if I was teaching cursive or latin. Now, I think writing is best used as a place to codify thoughts, to process externally, and that need, I think, will always be there. But perhaps it’s time to reconsider the roll of reading and writing in our lives.
What do you think?