Saturday, September 12, 2015

Handwriting in the time of keypads and keyboards

Where is the handwriting we’ve lost in digital world populated with Arial, Times New Roman, Helvetica, Trebuchet and other fonts? Where are those pearly letters that strung words into sentences? What happened to the ubiquitous cursive style that was synonymous with good handwriting? As fountain pens gave way to ballpoint pens and gel pens, did it also impact the amount and quality of writing we do with our hands? How quickly we’ve adapted ourselves to digital screens and have lost our love for the paper and the book! It’s not without apology that I regret losing my habit of writing with a pen or pencil, carefully creating those letters, those little strokes that added aesthetic value. And of course, the joy of getting appreciated for beautiful handwriting. Of late, I notice how illegible my words become, how impatient it feels to really write something other than filling forms! Isn’t handwriting really at crossroads?

I couldn’t help going back to my school and college days, how meticulously we used to write our notes – that was when there were no short cuts to language and writing, forget about how we’ve dwarfed our words for texting to suit various digital messaging formats. And we’ve got swept away with the ease and convenience of keyboards and keypads, compromising the personal with the impersonal, defying our individual identities with uniform fonts and their impeccable appearance.

You might wonder, where is the need to trouble ourselves with pen and paper in the digital world. Especially, when we are talking about ecofriendly institutions and workplaces where we keep printing to the minimum. This certainly is the need of the hour, but how do we account for the loss of a skill that is identified with basic literacy. How do we keep this skill alive and make sure that it’s practiced and used consciously in our work life.

I perceive another psychological problem with this trend: look at the way our mind coordinates with the keyboard and compare it with the way we think when we write with our hand. I always felt the difference when I write directly on my mobile phone or my laptop as against making notes on paper or notepad and transfer them on to the screen for further expansion of my ideas. Though I’m unable to put this experience in words it’d great to study this difference and understand how the medium of writing affects our thought processes or vice versa.

Wondering what prompted this sudden concern of handwriting in me? Well, I do think back and feel sad about how much my handwriting has suffered with lack of practice, how illegible and unpresentable it looks. But, yesterday, when I had to make some quick notes from a book, instead of writing down the points or even keying them I ended up taking a picture of the paragraph on my mobile phone as I was in a hurry. Resorting to such quick and easy way of doing things makes me apprehensive about how digital technologies and handheld devices pose a threat to our creative skills, handwriting included.

Perhaps, this trend is inevitable as one treads through various stages of evolution with writing as a form of communication and handwriting as a form of creative expression!

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