'If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write' declared Martin Luther King. For writing is central to our culture and seen as the vehicle of precision and accuracy. Theories, contracts, and treaties all require to be written to be taken seriously. But there is a hidden danger in our dependence on writing, for it can give the illusion of precision and truth where there is none. From Wittgenstein to Derrida, philosophers have argued that precise meaning is elusive, as legal disputes over contracts and the difficulty in replicating experiments from written papers testify. Increasingly we interact through text, but as many discover it can frequently derail rather than enhance communication.
Have we mistaken written text for the truth when it is often a reach for control, an attempt to impose your story on others? Would we communicate better if we spent less time framing emails and texts and more time talking? Are we losing the fluid, ambiguous, potential of speech undermining meaning and diminishing our reality? Or are we right to be dazzled by the timeless quality of writing and its capacity to change the world?