The mindset of mistakes and technology

 . . . Print’s long history is riddled with errors and strikethroughs and rewrites— a fact worth celebrating and in some ways emulating, actually. In the earliest days of the book, writers and readers gathered around mistakes as a means of discourse about the work. When books were new, people saw them as fluid, changeable. Mistakes weren’t as much lamented as they were expected, and people scrawled corrections over the text itself, in the margins, and on errata lists slipped between pages.

– “A Corrected History of the Typo” by Adrienne LaFrance

So when did errors become so scary? People blame the increase in errors with the current ease of publishing, but the original style of book publishing was nowhere near easy. The important part, however, is that books would have the errors visually corrected in them. You could see what changed or what people found to be correct. And yes, that might make you wonder about the accuracy of other parts of the book, but it would also point out something really important: all language, everything written has fallibility.

That news article you just read? Fallible. That blog post? That book? All fallible. You might find an error. Worse yet, you might miss the error and just be tricked. The thing about the Internet is we can change that error in a second, and you might not even know. That practice just keeps perpetuating the idea that perfect, infallible works exist and that you should believe everything you read wholeheartedly, which isn’t how that works. I’d say we could learn quite a bit from the old ideologies of publishing and accept errors as a part of the process.


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