Tools Of The Trade

Nov 12 2012 @ 4:47pm

Jason Pontin wonders why more writers haven't adapted their work to the new ways we read. He finds that literary innovation is driven most of all by the technology used to compose the text:

At a time when new media are proliferating, it is tempting to imagine that authors, thinking about how their writing will appear on devices such as electronic readers, tablet computers, or smartphones, consciously or unconsciously adapt their prose to the exigencies of publishing platforms. But that's not what actually happens. One looks in vain for many examples of stories whose style or form has been cleverly adapted to their digital destinations. Stories on e-readers look pretty much as stories have always looked. Even The Atavist, a startup in Brooklyn founded to publish multimedia long-format journalism for tablet computers, does little more than add elements like interactive maps, videos, or photographs to conventional stories. But such elements are editors' accretions; The Atavist's authors have not been moved, as Baker was, by the creative possibilities of a new technology. Writers are excited to experimentation not by the media in which their works are published but, rather, by the technologies they use to compose the works.

Unsurprisingly, then, blogs have been one example of a new style emerging from new tools:

Even when a writer's style is informed by a publishing platform, it's more often because that technology is also an authoring tool: blogging programs, such as Movable Type or WordPress, are content management systems that publish blogs to the Web, but they are also sophisticated word processors that make it easy to link to other blogs, use block quotes, or embed photographs and videos. The distinctive voice of modern bloggers—impulsively reactive, colloquial, intimate, allusive, and, above all, chatty—owes much to such software.