I was reading a piece yesterday about how dictation software is really coming of age, how we are closer than ever to the point where we can control computers and tablets by our voices alone. The time when we move beyond keyboard and mouse may be nearer than we think. The idea of being able to simply dictate rather than type is appealing, although i am unclear how it may actually change the dynamics of writing.
For me, stopping using a pen and starting using a keyboard felt liberating: my writing was never very tidy and although i got pretty fast when doing my degree, it always felt scrappy. I can certainly type faster than i can write with the huge advantage that i can jump up the page and edit it. I still write primarily in a linear manner, front to back, although i have noticed with the book that i am more able these days to jump down the structure and write a later chapter then jump back up to an earlier one. I guess that most of my constraints are due to me learning with a pen and carrying over much of my mindset and writing styles from there.
Whilst i am not a wholesale adopter of eBooks (i love real books too dearly to ever migrate fully), i have developed a recent love for audio books, finding this a perfect way to utilise car journeys. I would estimate that i consume forty percent of reading matter in the form of paper books, fifty percent in the form of websites/blogs/electronic articles and ten percent audiobooks. When i did my degree, that would have been one hundred percent paper that i read and the majority of my writing done by hand, so just within the last twenty years of my academic and working life, my consumption and production of content has fundamentally shifted.
In the last four years or so, the ways that i communicate and run projects has also fundamentally shifted: it was about back then that i ran my first totally ‘virtual’ project, where i never met the teams. Today, the majority of my work is with teams that i never meet. Although this doesn’t mean that i exist in a lonely void. Instead, the lack of physical meetings has been replaced by a rich series of virtual and social learning and collaboration spaces that increase my reach and engagement beyond measure.
So the ways that i learn and the ways that i produce content have changed beyond measure. Whilst i still feel a connection to the ‘old’ ways, the new ones feel liberating, both for how i write and how i learn.
There are frustrations: i don’t know how to capture thoughts from audiobooks or podcasts. I constantly think ‘i heard that somewhere’, but i can’t take notes or relocate it, and ‘bookmarking’ in audio is challenging. But these are details and, if truth be known, whilst i used to take lots of notes and fill books with bookmarks, i rarely actually revisited them.
I have no doubt that a move to full dictation will change how i work again: whilst i type fast, it’s still the ultimate limiting factor in how much i produce. Mind you, there may be benefits in the pace that is restricted by how fast i can interact with the keyboard. Maybe it gives me better time for reflection?
Whilst i focus a lot of time on the potential for new technology and ways of working in organisations, it’s rare that i think much about how it impacts me personally. Mobile technology, the emergence of tablets, the creation of social learning spaces and communities, these are revolutionary times. How we learn, how we share, how we produce content and how we consume it: these things are fundamental to the shape of our society and the nature of our culture, not just in learning, but everywhere.
There’s no doubt that i’ve felt benefits from the changes we have experienced so far: i’m intrigued to see how the next wave of change impacts, both on my personally and on our wider field. I am still a slow adopter of voice control. Siri on my phone is still a gimmick, used for the first few days, neglected ever since. Maybe all that is about to change.