Sometimes I have to go back to this simple fact: lots of what we say is lost in translation. The addition to that is that more of what we write is lost in translation. Being a student and practitioner of theatre I should always have this in mind. I think it is the time spent writing plays (a very writing-centric activity) that lulls me away from the reality every once in a while. I truly do believe in the power of words… but people speaking them adds so very much. It should come as no surprise, then, that things often get lost when we rely on something as revolutionary as email to transfer our thoughts.
As I prepare to write my dissertation (and the mountain of original material that will appear in the appendix) I begin to wonder what the future of a dissertation might look like. While I don’t think writing will ever go away (and I really hope that it doesn’t) there is something missing when we don’t have visuals, or voices, or movement. Those elements can and do add to the meaning being communicated. Our university only recently switched to a digital only archive of dissertations and theses. This single event splits us from the confines of the cover of a traditional book. Since the dissertation is archived digitally one need only submit a file format able to hold video, sound, and other elements to be describing, arguing, and explaining in a different way.
Recently a document I wrote about my dissertation (firmly about one subject) was sent to a completely different area dealing with different things and it was found to be unclear. That un-clarity was communicated in (you guessed it) an email and when I spoke to one of my instructors about it they did the most sensible thing in the world: they used a phone. Within ten minutes things were clear and steadily progressing again. Sometimes words aren’t enough.