Is Technology Endangering Our Writing Heritage?


Located in the South West of Kofu, Yamanashi, away from the hundred-year-old wineries and stunning waterfall, is the Yamanashi Prefectural Museum of Literature.  Surrounded by low cost housing, and little else of interest, it is a strange location for a museum filled with Japanese literature heritage.  Inside it contains a mix of originals and copies of drafts produced by some of Japan’s best-known writers.

Amongst these are copies of Ry?nosuke Akutagawa’s Rashomon drafts.  You can see his edits in the picture below – Akutagawa was obsessed with style according the museum.

Walking amongst these giants of Japanese literature, you can see and sense the writing process.  You can see the pens they used, the red marks of their editors – even great writers cannot escape those – and the first editions of their books.  It is tangible and inspiring.

Looking through these pieces of history, I became a little sad.  I began to think about what would be displayed in literature museums in one hundred years time.  As an advocate of technology through both the writing process and publication, I had a crisis of confidence because I saw a world with people walking through museums displaying Word documents and preserved Kindles.

It may not be the case now, but within a generation, it is possible that a writer will go from first draft to publication without ever committing anything to paper.  If that happens, and there is no valid reason to think it will not, what will we leave future generations to look at and inspire them?

Do you foresee a future where the whole writing process is digital and do you keep any hard copies of your drafts?


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