Margo Jefferson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning critic, is The New York Times cultural critic, writing columns for the Sunday Book Review and arts reviews for the daily Culture section. In an interview for this project, she talked about current and emerging technology and how it affects a writer's task.
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"I think that technology is making writing more accessible but also more alluring. Again, it's partly that game sense, but it's so easy, you know, to send out a message, to… It's also simultaneously like you… It has a feeling of keeping a diary. 'You know, I'm just going to jot this down.' Then if you want to send it to somebody, you do. And writing a letter where you're addressing somebody very particularly but, you know, it's supposed to be spontaneous. And, you know, maybe the fact that it's in type helps us feel less self-conscious.
"You know, it certainly is quicker. And when you're-when you're… I do think we're-our lives are so fast, you know, all these… I mean, in the-in the course of the day, the number of human encounters you have that really just have to do with business, you know, appointments, whatever, then you go home and your answering machine is probably full.
"And I just think it's sensory overload and spoken language overload. You know, e-mail is a relief for all of that. It can offer you a kind of solitude that, you know, you can-you can time how you communicate to people."
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"Technology can help students because it makes research-to some extent it can make research quicker, therefore easier. It can also give you this sense you can get caught up in and excited in tracking material. It can feel a little bit like, you know, 'Oh, I'm on the trail of something.' A little bit of a mystery here. You know, that has its own momentum. I hope it doesn't take away from, you know, a certain kind of pleasure that I still find in going to an old encyclopedia or tracking something down, but who knows. You know, we just aren't in a position to know that.
"How it can harm? Again, just making students… How technology, I suppose, could harm students is it could-it's so easy to get this material and just kind of put it together in what seems to be a simple, clear order that I suppose that could substitute, could become too easy and a substitute for your own organizing, you know, shaping, you know, making it your own. You know, 'This is my voice. This is not just my voice kind of linking big patches of material.' You know, again, I-I don't like being, you know, a kind of, oh, gloom prophetess about this. I don't know enough about it and every single form of technology that's arrived-you know, has aroused thousands of doom sayers.
"There's always something that's sacrificed and there are always games. That's just the nature of the beast. So it's really, again, going be a lot about how schools and teachers work with it and work with their students."