Digital and Manual Writing. Opinions from the Health Area Team (ISTUD Foundation)

As a further idea for the debate concerning the Digital and the Manual Writing, we publish the considerations of Antonietta Cappuccio and Luigi Reale, from the Health Area Team (ISTUD Foundation).

D. Digital and Manual Writing: how do you live these two different writing styles, in your experience?

A.C. By now, typing is an everyday fact: it’s faster, legible by everyone, it results orderly and, at the same time, it could be rendered winsome thanks to different styles, colours, sizes and images. Thanks to the digital technologies, we can write 50 page documents with a velocity unthinkable before, sharing documents with colleagues and friends which can inspect, correct and complete the text. It’s a dynamic, fast and professional way of writing. Honestly, however, if I have to write some thoughts, if I have to narrate something deep, I prefer to use paper. Hand writing allow me to be creative, to use space in a different way, defeating the fear of the white sheet. It’s unthinkable writing by hand a whole research report, but I continue to write by hand some parts, the key-steps that need deeper reflection. Hand writing, according to me, is not to be left – eventually, our calligraphy gives us character, personality… Even if, often, it’s not readable by others!

L.R. I answer not as a digital native, but as a person who lived, during childhood, the importance of hand writing, the respect of line and square, the good calligraphy aim. Only during the last years of adolescence, I began to approach first the electronic writing, and then the digital networks, remaining fascinated by the fast writing, the possibility to come back on words, the moving from communication made by only words to another one enriched with symbols, imagines and sounds. Even if I actively live this new way of communication, I’m sceptical when I read – for example – that the Finnish scholastic reform considers hand writing as a facultative activity. In addition to the hand writing prove benefits on brain activity, using paper allows to give a personal form to our own thoughts and feelings, it’s a further way to communicate our identity to other people, it helps to transfer personality aspects, as graphologists evidence.

D. In your experience, did you find similar reflections (also from patients’ point of view) about Digital and Manual Writing? And which advantages has on-line collecting stories?

A.C. Since I have started working in ISTUD Foundation, I read hundreds of stories, written by hand or on pc. No one wrote to openly prefer a way or the other: we received long and short stories through both these modalities, the difference is in people will to open themselves. Patients and caregivers who wrote their experience are people who feel the need to share their story, often because they don’t feel listened and welcomed in their everyday life, or because they can’t find a way to stop and narrate themselves. Sometimes, instead, is simpler write and talk to a stranger ready to listen to you, sometimes the incentive to narrate ourselves comes from the will to share our own experience with the aim to be useful for people who share the same path. And are not digital or manual writing to stop their will to express. In our job, we decided to move to on-line writing not only for practical reasons: less paper, simpler lecture, safer conservation… The principal reason of this switch was the will to create a safe place where people could feel free to express themselves, without the fear to be read by everyone. Before, indeed, paper stories were collected by doctors who collaborated to the projects, and then sent to us – moreover, the stories were written in the hospital, during waits, and not in a calm setting. Our choice is to pander to patients and their familiars, rendering narrative accessible and safer, but in all our project the hand writing possibility won’t disappear!

L.R. When we receive illness narratives, more often they are digital written. This fact facilitates their lecture, it doesn’t imply costs and allows us to pay attention to the content, that remains the only distinctive feature. The “emotional dressing” done by emoticons, imagines, and so on, re-enters in a big digital decoding which doesn’t tell us if behind a smile emoticon there’s a real smile, or if behind tears there’s a real bother. The few hand written stories we receive now, are often by people deeply reflective, who have slowly done that exercise of reflection, reprocessing and narrative. I don’t think that it could be a singular interpretation about “pro and con” of these two models of writing. I believe that, in the healthcare field, technology – to which we delegate exams, therapeutic decisions, and so on, and that seems to have a primary role in decision making – has, at the same time, contributed to distance and depersonalise the doctor-patient relationships. I think it’s important to not discourage, but to incentivize who wants to narrate himself (or herself), and wants to do it by hand.


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