Handwritten letters were remediated into sending emails to one another. But with this emotion and sentiment is often lost.

Remediation: The Shift From Old to New

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As a species, we have evolved over generations or remediated through our advancements in technology. From spoken word to print. Hand-written print to print and press. And more recently the shift from written texts to writing digitally. Are these “remedies” or advances in technologies helpful or detrimental to our writing?

For example, in class, the debate over handwritten letters or emails exploded into a conversation. Handwritten letters tend to be more personal. The act of receiving a handwritten letter now carries more importance than an email. But with an email, the same message gets across as it would in a letter but the composing and delivery time is cut in half.

Through this idea of remediation, we can identify how these changes have advanced our forms of communication. But what does remediation mean?

Defining Remediation

In The age of print and the late age of print by J.D. Applen, he defines remediation as:

“Remediation describes the shift to a newer form of media that takes some of the characteristics of a previous form but then refashions it. Because the newer technology “remediates” the older one, there is an implicit assumption that the newer form improves it” (Applen pg. 13).

Going back to the idea of writing/mailing letters to sending emails as an example of remediation. Handwritten letters were shifted or remedied to emails. The process is very similar but now the work and time to create a message have improved. Even though the “new” media of email is essentially a solution for quicker production time and response time. There are still missing components of personality, thoughtfulness, and overall emotion that come with handwritten letters.

New “Remedies”

Living in this late age of print, it is clear that we are experiencing different remediations through our advancements in technology. Though I am concerned that it is honestly doing more damage than good.

The first concern mentioned in “Words on pages on screens” touches on how these remediations in technology actually might be creating a disconnect in the writing space. “As we move away from book culture to a culture based on electronic communication, Birkerts argues, the quality of the prose we use will diminish significantly in a process he calls “language erosion”(Applen pg.19).

I think that this idea is something I have noticed in my everyday life and that I am guilty of myself. In a world where computers include auto-correct or grammar checks, I have a hard time manually checking my grammar. I often send out emails in incorrect formatting because it is now meshing with how I would send a text message. Maybe this is because they are both now closer in relation to each other than a written letter is with either. But, regardless the standards of how we compose writing pieces on different media outlets have simplified. Does this make us lazy? Maybe. It is just interesting to me how I once was so careful about how I formatted my writing or compose an email. Now I write what’s on my mind and let the platforms format for me.

Grammar, spelling, and punctuation are topics that have always bothered me. I have always struggled with grammar skills. Now that we have tools to check and fix these issues, I have not attempted to learn on my own.

I believe that remediations are important for keeping up with our fast-paced technological world. I do not believe that they are all necessarily “remedies” to issues. Sometimes it is important to go back to what was first taught and write a handwritten letter to someone. The act of learning while physically writing is an important skill. For example, taking notes or journaling. With new technologies, it is hard to decipher emotions through writings on a screen. So while remediations help advance technologies there are important disconnects that make us human.


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