Fragmentary Writing

Guy Patrick Cunningham’s essay “Fragmentary: Writing in a Digital Age” rings true with the way our generation has learned to read and write (according to my opinion, at least). Reading digital texts that are not fragmented lose my interest quickly, because seeing a text in whole can seem overwhelming. Fragmenting gives readers the chance to interact with the text, bringing it to a more complex level of interface that allows a subject-environment relationship. Cunningham states “Their fragmentary nature therefore reflects the fragmentary nature of memory, and of the human mind” which reminded me immediately of Pry and the way it is fragmented to mimic human memory. The senses are engaged with the text and its fragmentation is the main source of its appeal. It’s not like other texts – we catch glimpses of the story and are invited to piece it together ourselves. I would not be surprised to find more texts incorporating this type of interactive fragmentation to entertain our generation and the next.

Cunningham mentions Nicholas Carr’s book, The Shallows, which I read a few years ago for one of Mark Lipton’s media courses. I was really glad he mentioned that book because there was one thing that resonated with me after reading it. Carr mentions that we have become so adapted to the age of digital writing that it has also effected the way we read, which Cunningham alludes to. Carr says, specifically, that we have subconsciously learned to read in an “F” pattern, because that is the way most digital platforms have trained us to read. I still test out this theory today, when I scan over an essay or article I examine my method, which is usually along the left side of the page, and across every few lines. Even if you examine different social media sites now, like Facebook or Twitter, you’ll find that the majority of the information is packed on the left side of the screen, and across for postings.

Here’s a “chicken and the egg” question: do you think fragmented writing developed because we were already reading fragmentally, or we began reading fragmentally after fragmented writing was developed?

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