Writing using a pen and paper is enjoying a renaissance. While digitization has invaded nearly every aspect of life and communicating by keyboard has become ubiquitous, people are rediscovering the pleasure of handwriting. Using a pen to write a letter on paper, rather than an email on a screen, uses different physical and cognitive processes. Moreover, handwriting provides an opportunity to display a unique, individual style in a way that selecting a font for an electronic document, even a font that mimics script, does not. These are a few of the reasons why analog writing still thrives in a tech-filled world.
Pen enthusiasts enjoy the tactile experience that writing on paper provides. Typing on a keyboard feels the same, no matter which letter appears on the screen (except for the different fingers that strike the different keys.) Handwriting requires the scribe to physically create a different shape for each letter, engaging various motor skills. Once the ink is dry, the author can fold the paper any way they choose, to place it in an elegantly addressed envelope or send it sailing across the classroom in the form of a paper airplane.
Digital defenders argue that the speed of digital writing allows for faster thinking – writing faster frees up time to cogitate, they contend. But neuroscientific studies of children and adults found that those who learned to write letters by hand recognized and remembered letters better than those who learned digitally. This was true for preschoolers learning to recognize letters of the alphabet, as well as adults learning the written characters for previously unfamiliar languages. The physical movement required to create the different shapes of letters provides a kind of “muscle memory” that helps learners recall each letter.
Digital exhaustion may be driving the rebirth of interest in other “analog” technologies that provide richer sensory experiences. Printed books never lost out to e-books, and sales of physical books are only increasing. Vinyl records, with their grooves, turntables, and needles, provide a richer sensory experience (and, some contend, a better sound) than purely digital, streamed music. The heft and smell of a book, the sound of a turning page, and the scratch or roll of a pen on paper engage more of the senses than the click on a keyboard and the glare of a screen. Cover art on books and vinyl records add to the enjoyment of the analog media.
Detaching from the cacophony of social media is a balm to a digital generation to whom analog technologies are a novelty. Moving easily between the digital and analog worlds is now a feature of Millennials and Gen Z, who use touch screens and styluses to bring analog skills back around to digital devices, and obtain their writing tools unironically via the online pen store.
Analog writing, as well as other analog technologies like recording on tape or using film for photography, provides a way to slow down and re-engage with the physical world and the people in it. Analog writing thrives in a tech-filled world because it connects people not as avatars and through tweets, but as living, breathing, physical beings in a world populated with sights, smells, and textures that no glowing screen can replicate.
By Some Folks at EndlessPens