Plain text does not contain information about text sizes or styles, and it is the most efficient way to store text. It supports standard ASCII characters, including numbers, symbols, and spaces, but does not support any text formatting. This allows it to take up less than half the size of rich text documents containing the same number of characters. This is why log files, which contain a “log” of data generated by a program, are typically stored in a plain text format.
The feeling we get when experiencing this piece is similar to the first time we opened up in TextEdit, the HTML in of a website, or a code document from a program. We feel overwhelmed by this unfamiliar form and of a language we may not fully understand, but we accept that its purpose is to allow us to use the technology the way we do now. We are cautious not to touch the keyboard, and to quickly close the window and leave as if we were children who accidently stumbled into the “do not enter” section of a museum. And yet, the more time we spend there, the more curious we become to understand how it works.
Although the content of the piece does come together to create a narrative or have any function, plaintext is an effective medium to express this back end language in the digital landscape. In the form it is presented to us, we are left to imagine where its content originates. Is the text inputted by another human being, a program, or are they both the authors?