The medium is the message?
A couple of days ago I received a letter from an old friend, whom I have known since we were students together (though not studying for the same degree programme). He is the same age as me, but his attitude to technology and gadgetry is not, as you will see in a moment, the same as mine. But he is a highly respected scholar, now occupying a chair in a well respected university.
Here is his problem. His university is currently reviewing its strategy, and he has been asked to participate in the process and has joined the strategy steering group. All members of the group have been asked to circulate their thoughts on some of the main topics, by email. But now, my friend does not own or use a computer, he does not use email, he says he doesn’t actually understand what a ‘wordprocessor’ is (or rather, he writes that this term is meaningless unless it is a reference to the brain). So he used his old Olivetti typewriter to write out his ideas, admittedly also adding handwritten comments in the margin. He then gave the 10 pages so filled to the secretary of the group. Who gave them right back to him and said he must arrange to have his thoughts produced in an MS Word-compatible file submitted electronically; otherwise, no circulation.
My friend proposes to overcome this obstacle by photocopying his sheets of paper – actually no, I don’t believe he can operate a photocopier, there must be some clerical assistant involved in this part of the story. Anyway, he will have paper copies and will send these by internal mail to the other members of the group.
His letter to me is full of humorous asides about all this – but he wants my advice on whether, in truth, it is time for him, as he writes, ‘finally to switch on the great machine and step through the looking glass.’ So what should I write in response?