Having a few minor computer problems and struggling to find the motivation to work at home has seen me actually drag myself out of the house this week in order to go to University. That's right, no Westlaw, no printing things off, no reading cases from a computer screen or kindle, I've actually been in to the library, found the law section, and blew the dust off of a few good old fashioned books . . . and I’ve quite enjoyed it.
I posted earlier this year about the difference between live lectures and webcasts, and the idea that going to Uni should be about going to Uni. It seems I’ve been a little lazy, I’d been going to lectures but not spending a great deal of time anywhere else on the campus, which I now regret immensely! Spending the time in the library, reading the cases from the musky old books makes me feel a great deal more connected to the material. I must confess that it’s a new experience for me to be able to smell the material I’m reading, there’s something very warm and a great deal less sterile about reading cases and journal articles on paper, old, old paper as opposed to the screen of my (much loved) kindle.
I must stress at this point my love of technology, I’ve got a fancy top of the line android phone, and later this month I’m planning on ditching my netbook in favour of a tablet/netbook hybrid machine, I love cloud storage and Spotify. I’ve dabbled in Linux, was the first of my friends to own a kindle, do most of my shopping via the eBay app on my phone and am a bit of a tweet deck junkie. I’m just starting to think that Marshall McLuhan’s much quoted ‘the medium is the message’ is becoming more and more true today. We’re more and more excited about the fancy phone and the fact that it can do cool things than we are about the value that those things can bring to our lives. I’ve been reading You are Not a Gadget: a Manifesto by Jaron Lanier and think some of his ideas are brilliant, for example, by endlessly re-tweeting the opinions or stories of others you’re nothing more than a mirror, reflecting the thoughts of another. Lanier is a champion for the creation of original content, which is something I whole-heartedly approve of.
I suppose what I’m getting at, without trying to overly romanticise things is that reading law, reading anything for that matter is about communication. The tools we use to communicate are more and more often becoming hi-tech, and it’s easy to get lost in the joy of the toy rather than find the time to really engage with the material. I’ve found that by switching off the screen and reading from the dusty, musky book, which doesn’t have any functions other than the communication of information, I’ve gained a little something.
That said, I did write this while I was supposed to be working on an essay and if you’re reading this you’ll probably be doing so from a screen . . .