Knowledge in the Making

I have found some interesting projects being worked on at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science. One in particular, Knowledge in the Making, has caught my attention. As a self-proclaimed bibliophile, I LOVE books. I also enjoy the process of writing, and have had many interesting conversations about the writing process.

Has the computer affected the writing process? I personally prefer to write by hand, but find I cannot write as much because eventually my hand starts to cramp up. Patrick, the managing editor at Subterrain magazine, suggested that I write by hand until I get tired and then type up what I wrote, and this also has the added benefit of reading over what I just wrote and editing it, as well as possibly giving me new ideas. I have yet to try this method, but perhaps I will within the week as it sounds like a terrific idea.

I know for understanding scientific texts, the images that support the text are really useful in helping me to understand and visualize the concepts. One of my favourite examples of this is in the book, The Scientific Background to Modern Philosophy. Another book that I would not have been able to get through without the illustrations to guide me was Thomas Kuhn’s The Copernican Revolution.

Does writing on paper involve a different thought process than writing on the computer? Are you more emotionally connected to the words on paper than on screen? I know for a fact a letter I get in the mail is much more exciting than if I got the same letter as an email. Why is this?

I found the introduction on the Knowledge in the Making page to be quite interesting with regards to these questions and more. Here is a teaser:

In the context of scientific research, both drawing and writing involve much more than the recording of what was previously thought or observed. Rather, they produce effects of their own that are connected to the particular techniques of their use. Stylus, pencil, and pen have the power to mediate: they translate observations into two-dimensional, and thus easily reproducible, texts and images; they concretize cognitive processes and in this way open up an interaction between perception and reflection, between the securing of phenomena and the formation of theses. Many objects and phenomena become available and comprehensible only through drawn and written records.

I couldn’t agree more.


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