Sunday, 24 November 2013

Why we write.

For unknown reasons a thought bounced around: Why do people write? Let's put on the logical hat and make a list. The reasons mentioned below are very fundamental and contain many more detailed reasons. These specific ones are mentioned because the author felt that the following should not be generalized any further.

Memorialization seems to be the easiest reason and arguably the biggest reason. We want to remember things. Something happened? Write it down for future reference. Thought of a great idea? Write it down.

This, however, can be a tricky one due to all sorts of biases involved. An event happens and time passes until it is written down. With time the accuracy starts to degrade with some decay function. Then there is a problem if biases and points of view, the recorded event is at maximum only as accurate as the author's observation. The skill of the author to describe the events can also bring the accuracy into question. Elizabeth Loftus talks about the creation of false memories which is hardly a malicious intent but throws even more uncertainty into the mix.

Maintaining trust in the record is an incredibly difficult undertaking. My theory is that most of us just close our eyes and pretend everything is OK unless something obvious stand out. Of course as a society we put various means of alleviating the problem of trust. Means such as the use of references, language standards and peer reviews. All of which reduce to some form of trust in a person. These approaches probably work well assuming that most people are not malicious is nature.
Organization is an easy one as well. With thousands of things happening all at once, there is a good chance you can't keep track of them all. This is probably closely tied to memorialization but with a different purpose.

It is a lot easier to trust the accuracy of this type of writing because the entities being described have either been documented somewhere else (shifting the validation from the writing in question) or they are ideas created by the author. Ideas created by the author can be assumed to be 100% accuracy because the writing in question is the first instance where the idea enters the world. The only other place the idea exists is the author's head which we cannot compare the accuracy to.
Discussion with yourself or others. This one is not so obvious, at least not until one thinks about the question. We write letters to discuss things with others. But, we also write diaries and notes to keep track of what we've thought of in order to follow the steps of logic. Discussion is very similar to organization, as in organization of thought. However, it deserves its own mention due to the difference of intent.

The intent in writing for the sake of discussion is to show a trail of thought. Probably everyone can remember C follows B follows A but what if there are 30 steps. That requires writing things down, perhaps with the author as the only audience. For example, one of the purposes of this blog is to help the author organize his thoughts of experimentation.
Art, some people like to write for the sake of writing. Something about the word play that drives people to come up with elaborate combinations that have nothing but artistic value.


In almost every case a piece of writing will contain several of these forms. In some cases the art will be pervasive through the entire piece, however others can be mutually exclusive in different parts of the written piece. When the author puts their art into the writing, the readers enjoy it more.

No comments:

Post a Comment