Foraging for Meaning: Hunters & Gatherers Work the Web

Rick Myers points to an interesting piece about how we read online by Slate’s Michael Agger.
Near the end of the piece, there’s a link to “Hamlet’s Blackberry: Why Paper Is Eternal” by William Powers.
Here’s a clip from Powers’ 74-page document:

Paper is the most successful communications innovation of the last 2000 years, the one that has lasted the longest and had the profoundest effect on civilization. One can easily make the case that
without the technology that is paper, there would be no civilization. Yet most of the time, we don’t even think of paper as a technology. And so we don’t ask the questions we routinely ask about other technologies: How does it work? What are its strengths and weaknesses? Is it easy and enjoyable to use?

All of which leads me to ask, do you pause to consider the medium you’re writing for? Do you write differently for paper? And who among us still puts pen to paper when forming ideas into coherent expressions?

About David Burn

Co-founder and editor of AdPulp. I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. I worked for seven agencies in five states before launching my own practice in 2009. Today, I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.


  1. I have two different writing styles when I type versus writing on paper. Writing on paper, with pen in hand, my writing is more dense and poetic — probably because I can type 60 words a minute and write, oh, 10 words a minute.
    My mother-in-law is a great writer (unpublished, but that’s because of her own doubts & insecurities) and she writes everything by hand.
    Same with my friend Melissa. She’s an awesome screenwriter, has a paid gig for an animated feature right now, and she writes everything by hand too. Then she types it into the computer and edits as she goes. She says it’s part of her “process”.

  2. I took the time to read Powers’ piece last night and I recommend it highly. It’s well written and well worth the time investment. If you don’t have the time, one might boil it down to this:
    Online and paper communications will continue to live side-by-side for generations to come. One won’t replace the other.
    Online environments are great for information snacking. Paper is great for the kind of deep engagement required by in-depth storytelling.