I’m a bookworm. I don’t mean that I just like to read all the time. I like to hold the tangible book in my hands, turn each crisp white page as I read, and smell musty antique volumes or the newness of a book hot off the presses. I’m also relatively “old-fashioned” when it comes to how I live my daily life. I’ve stubbornly insisted only on purchasing basic phones that are capable merely of texting and calling. I don’t own an iPod, a Kindle, a Tablet. I journal in a notebook with pen or pencil. I still love receiving letters via snail mail.
(Disclaimer: I’m not living in the dinosaur ages. Of course I have a laptop. I experiment with new technologies in the classroom: in fact, one of my future blog entries is going to be about the possibilities of using dictation technology in the classroom. I find the Digital Humanities useful and intriguing. And I’m excited by the work my computer scientist fiancé does. I just want to keep my own life as simple and tactile as possible.)
I have to admit that I’ve recently come over to the other side, or rather I’ve stopped seeing sides. I still value the tangible book and hope that libraries are always fully stocked, but on my recent dissertation research trip to Oklahoma City I realized just how useful new technologies can be, especially for someone trying to do work hands-free.
Sometime last year, a good friend gifted an iPad Mini to me. Grateful for such an extravagant present but convinced it was entirely superfluous to my life, I used it only to surf the web and take photographs. That is, I thought it was superfluous until I realized I could download a Dragon Dictation app. And then I found out that the iPad makes it possible to dictate into any open window. Now I don’t want to go anywhere without it.
I know I run the risk of sounding absurd to the rest of my generation (I insist that I’m just old enough to miss being a millennial) when I marvel over an easy-to-carry device that can take high quality photographs, make voice recordings, and offer speech-to-text in every application. But if you’re not one of my fellow dictation-dependent writers, imagine what a revelation it would be if you realized that you could conduct archival research, record interviews, and take notes all with the same device and almost entirely without using your hands. My handy (pun intended) little iPad is changing how I do research in unexpectedly welcome ways and making my job healthier for my hands.
I still think we’ve become too dependent on technology. And I still feel concerned each time another friend says, “I’d rather read a book on my phone than sign one out of the library.” But I’m not seeing such a clear line anymore between the old way and the new way of engaging with texts and words.
Question of the week: What new technology has aided you the most at work? And for those of you “old-fashioned” individuals out there – in what ways have you found yourself being won over by new technologies?