I just wanna start off by mentioning that the field I’m a part of (Composition and Rhetoric) got a mention in this book and that made me happy because as a field no one really cares about us lol.
Regardless. The think-tape section of the book is something I found exceptionally fascinating for a couple of reasons. In composition studies it’s a pretty much agreed upon reality that writing is an epistemic act—that in the composing process a writer is simultaneously creating knowledge and becoming more knowledgeable, ideas transform in the writing process and sometimes it takes the actual act of writing for an idea to enter fruition. I find this fascinating to think about in terms of the relationships secretaries had with, say, business executives who may have had the habit of dictating information to a secretary and her goal was to trans,are that information—I have a feeling that the secretary is doing the epistemic work in that moment—which becomes even more emphasized with the construction of the think tape technologies.
Not only do secretaries have to engage in the burden of recording information for other people but I this situation they also have to engage in the learning of a new technology. Which ironically enough was anticipated to replace secretaries—computers being replaced by computers. But secretaries having to engage in an all new epistemic economy and network in word processing really made the, some of the most important people in the knowledge production of an organization that required word processing in order to be successful. This new technologies and their application would not have been possible without the epistemic agility of the secretary and their ability to learn and utilize such a complicated new way of word processing. Which ultimately makes me feel, that they were doing the real thinking of an organization that required word processing. Especially if they engaged in revising things themselves.
One thought on “Think-Tape and thought”
I think what you point out is really interesting, especially in light of the gender dynamics at work. With the knowledge that secretaries were predominantly women at a certain point in history, the “burden” that you describe actually gets re-cast as a kind of autonomy and freedom? With so many women learning and utilizing new technologies, a new technologically fluent caste of women comes forth, upsetting the role of secretaries as purely submissive to their “bosses.” In some ways, secretaries become indispensable employees, but also have the ability to supercede their bosses with the level of technological knowledge they have, thus undermining the system through playing the system’s games. Very interesting stuff, and I’m interested to hear more!