Digits in the Digital
The memory of learning to type on a keyboard is fuzzy.
I don't even recall how it feels not to use a keyboard. It shows my age more than anything else, but I think most computer users hit an inflection point where typing becomes second nature. All that has to be done is thinking of what to say to a friend, program in a script, or announce to a public. Our hands know where to go.
Does that come at a cost? The artist Lynda Barry once said that in the digital age, don't forget to use your digits. There is no doubt you use our hands, but can you lose awareness of them?
This is something I think about all the time when playing guitar. I've been playing for a while, and sometimes when you play for a while it gets to the point where you don't think as much about your hands (and that doesn't make me any better of a player, rest assured). However, whenever I learn a new piece on guitar, however, I am reintroduced to my hands all over again. A piece of sheet music needs to not only be translated to a musical note but to my hands also. Which right-hand finger will I use to pluck this note? Which left-hand finger will I use to play this note? Those questions reintroduce me to what my hands are doing. That awareness can fade as I memorize a piece, but I try to make it a habit to review technique for pieces. Are my hands subject to unnecessary strain? If so strained, what can I do to alleviate the tension so I can play better? I feel more awareness of what my hands (and body for that matter) are doing to use this musical technology
I've been trying to think along these lines with how to make myself more aware of my hands when using a keyboard. One approach could be procuring a new keyboard, but that's like buying a new guitar to do what I already do with learning new pieces. I wonder how software, like a piece of music, can help develop such mindfulness — digital tools reminding you of your digits. One such tool I've been working with lately has been Vim (NeoVim to be precise). It requires me to rethink how to edit text (especially without using the damn trackpad so much). In such a process, hand awareness take center stage — like learning how to type all over again.
Why such an insistence on being aware of your hands when you type? That might be the real question to explore. It's as if there's a part of me that doesn't want to accept that the computer, to take a phrase from Marshall McLuhan, is a medium which has different sense ratios at play than a musical instrument like a guitar. Why does the difference in the sense of touch have to make something better or worse? Perhaps it doesn't, but it feels as though having less touch would change the way of perceiving & understanding the world...in a way I wouldn't prefer?
Still something I need to think through more.