I ran across this story about paper notebooks and how, although their place in society has changed somewhat, they still remain relevant in the digital age. The author points out that for “digital natives” , “paper is a curiosity” and it draws some people for that reason. For those of us considered “dinosaurs”, we remember a time when everything was on paper and every artist or writer had paper notebooks. We dinosaurs cling to our paper notebook/sketchbooks out of nostalgia, but, increasingly, for privacy and sanity as well.
I met with a friend last night and over drinks, she drew out a small sketchbook filled with her wonderful line drawings. “I wanted you to see this” she said in hushed tones. “I showed them to another friend and he just kept saying I should put them on the internet”. She shook her head. “I can’t do that. They are mine!”
She is an astonishingly good artist, has exhibited publicly before, but also has expressed her continuing reticence to release her things to the Internet. “People will just screenshot them and next thing I know my drawings will end up on a shirt being sold from whoknowswhere. It’s a piece of me, so I can’t let that happen. And the only way to do it is to not upload them to the internet.”
And so just like that, the ubiquitous sketchbook/notebooks of the analog age have attained a more important part of something they already somewhat were — a personal grimoire of the spirit, of sorts.
Sure, you can keep notes on your various devices and make digital art and never show it to anyone—but human nature is strong and the temptation to just post it to the internet will always be there. From the other side, you can always take pictures/scan your work from your paper notebooks and then upload them—but that is probably less likely. And, the benefit of using paper notebooks has been revealed in the concept of “desireable difficulty”, which is explained in the article I cited above. In short, the act of having to write something down in an analog fashion when doing something like taking notes, results in better learning and retention and enhanced creativity. Clearer perspective. A more relaxed state. As a woman interviewed in the article says “It’s this thing that is so intuitive. It’s between you and paper and a pen. It’s kind of meditative.”
I am convinced that the real cultural rebels of the future will not purposefully have much of a presence on the internet at all. It’s already starting to happen in dribs and drabs and it’s not all older people, either. We’ve had some 20 odd years of people just blaring out their lives and feelings in various social media—it’s like a great catharsis that had to happen, but now we get to move on. And, as the internet monetizes more and more and relies on the ever- present irritant of advertising and wilts under the pressure of government and corporate control, some people will move on more quickly and thoroughly. The majority will still use social media, but there will be significant pockets of social-media-resisting people. And those people will be using the time they used to use on social media exploring their precious personal ciphers and sometimes sharing them with the people that matter most.