Exercise: Invent a Writing Technology


Just to get you in the swing of things, view a few videos

An idea we're going to explore in this class is the significance of the relationship between the technology we use to write and what and how we write. This relationship is generally below the radar because the technologies of writing we use - pencils, pens, paper, keyboards - have become transparent. We simply use them and are unaware of their influence on writing itself. But a new technology denaturalizes this commonplace and we can start to become critically aware of our habits and the elements we work in.This exercise will make this aspect of writing, what is usually invisible to us, visible.

This short exercise has two parts.

Part 1

Invent a writing technology, using materials from nature or around the house, and write a text of 20 words or so. Invent something to inscribe with, and inscribe on. See if you can stay inside these constraints

If you are not able to physically present your project in class, post photos or a video.

Part 2

For the second part, draw up some notes to guide our discussion. In a couple of pages of notes and bulleted lists, consider your encounter with your wiring technology, your encounter with the common technologies of writing today, and draw on the readings.
  1. Explain how you created your technology. Tell the story of its invention: the inspiration, the attempts, the testing and trials, the blood, sweat, and tears.
  2. Talk about the changes and the limits and constraints your particular technology brings with it. What's it good for? What less so? How does it change graphemic and syntactic conventions we're familiar with? How does it change how the writing moves from place to place - how it's distributed? How does it change (if it does) the relationship between the writer and her writing? The reader and the writing? The reader and the message? The writer and the reader? In think about these ideas, you'll need to compare your technology with others: paper and pencil, computer screen, typewriter, cell phone...
  3. Finally, imagine how your technology fits into education. What would a course involving your technology look like? What would need to be taught? What would "becoming literate" in your technology involve? What would person who is literate in your technology need to know how to do?

This is a short project. We're doing it to consciously explore the the technologies and materials we use to create texts. The goal is not to make great artistic masterpieces or to work yourself to death. It might be pretty cool to chisel your text into a piece of marble, but it the cost of the materials and the time it would take to "write" the text are too much for this project.

You should spend at least as much time (if not more) drawing up your notes of how you went about creating your writing project as you spend creating the 20 or so word writing project itself.

Adapted from S. Krause
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