Sunday, August 24, 2008

Writing as a Material Practice




What difference, if any, does the materiality of literacy make?

Toward that end, please identify and consider your favorite space
for textual inscribing--screen, paper, board, sidewalk--and tell us
about it. Include in your thinking what you are writing with, as well.

What are the affordances of these specific writing/composing materials
that, in part, construct you as an author?

27 comments:

Leah Cassorla said...

The materiality of literacy, imho, is primarily important in terms of access. The technology used to write and/or mass produce writing and/or have access to the mass produced writing (much less access to means of production) makes all the difference in the world not only to availability of information and therefore decision-making and mobility, but it also makes all the difference in terms of how one uses literacy, whether primarily as passive recipient or as active participant.

I prefer my little laptop. That's a sea change for me. I used to write in notebooks--special books and special pens. I collected them. I loved the look of handwriting on paper, the process of writing and seeing my work in nice ink on special (often handmade) paper.

Though disability has not made me a second-tier adopter (I've been one since I was a child), it has limited my writing to primarily type-written text (and I love txt as well). I cannot hold a pen long enough to write more than a few sentences without my hand locking in place and the pen no longer being useful. Txt-ing has become part of my life thanks to what began as a long-distance relationship. I rarely, if ever txted then. Now I txt all say long with many people. I have friends with whom txt is my primary form of communication.

As a second-tier adopter, I've also learned a great deal about design, coding, and the software that goes along with it (I prefer the Adobe Suite). I do not yet consider myself fluently literate in this part, but I do consider digital literacy as much a process as "analog" literacy is.

Yikes, have I said enough?

becca skinner said...

Well, I am writing this on a computer which makes me a published author! That is amazing and really new for our digital generation. However, I still experience GREAT frustration with computer communication. I live in a rural setting with only dial-up. this is horrible and I do not even use the internet at home because it can take me 30 minutes to open my email sometimes. So I guess access even supersedes my lack of technical cutting edge-osity. However, I love email and I like the writer I am when I compose on the keyboard.I think it makes me smarter and faster and I have an entirely different persona that is not contrived at all, but just seems to naturally flow from the inscription situation. So, my main problem is access, and secondarily technical know-how. On the benefit side are delivery and voice which are both enhanced by the affordances of electronic communication, and the added ability to link or attach other things. Analog and tangible technologies, such as the very nice Pilot P-500 micro point black acid-free ink pen are differently appreciated by my writer self. This is an eminently portable device and does not cause me to dwell on my unfortunate internet situation, or any of the other expensive system deficiencies in my electronic writing (and publishing!) realm.However, writing in pen seems personal and no longer appropriate for a document one would show to others. The professionalism of type has replaced the organic handwritten page, and rightly so. Who wants to squint to decipher? It is still a great tool, the pen, for spontaneity---- because it travels so well and requires so little support or maintenance it is a real aid to invention.

Kelly said...

Digital communication has become more cost effective and efficient than writing by hand. If I am almost out of minutes on my cell phone, then I can text my husband to let the dog out without overage charges. Better yet, if I am out of paper for my printer, I can simply email a paper to a teacher or peer, which they will receive instantly. We can text, email, etc. with probably half the time it would take to write something the "old fashioned" way.

However, with these new spaces come various obstacles. For example, texting without knowledge of "T9" (or whatever your provider calls it) leaves the text messenger in dismay that it would take twenty minutes to type five words when they could, in fact, just call. Checking email on a MAC for those who hold onto their PCs or typing on Word 07 has created some difficulties for something that should be such an easy task. Sometimes these new forms of communication have a learning curve, but until I reached that level, I'll be honest, I felt plain dumb (I still get annoyed by the hidden print icon on Word 07....I had to ask one of my students how to print something!).

Although being technologically inept somewhat stunted my writing for a while, I guess I sort of got used to writing in the medium. I can’t say I enjoy it all of the time. I enjoy writing on paper because ideas come to me more naturally. I like to see my words in my handwriting (although I do agree with Becca that there is a sense of professionalism to a typed document). But, because computers do save us time and money at times, I have adapted it as my primary medium for communicating.

In a nutshell, I like writing on paper because it never changes. It’s simple. There is no learning curve. I know that a new version of paper won’t come out that will throw me for a loop. There’s a sense of comfort with it. But, I also know that writing in a digital medium reaps the benefits of time efficiency, convenience, and professionalism. Both are beneficial, but perhaps it all boils down to who the intended audience is….okay, I’ll stop rambling…..

Kara T. said...

I believe that as technology progress, so should we progress. However, saying that does not automatically mean that I am progressing with it or that I am good at it…

I come from a technological advanced family however I do not follow in their footsteps and as a result have become dependent on them to answer my questions and do my advancing for me. Cell/Texting=Joey; Computer (including systems, programs, and just about anything you can think of)=David; Gaming=both my boys; cars and electronics=my dad; word processing=my mom. (And for a very long time I dated an IT guy...yes this would be “Justin the tall”.) I could go on with the knowledge they have, but I think you can see the point. They all know a lot about technology, and I am spoiled b/c of that. I never have to figure a computer problem out b/c I know if I can call my IT guy and he will fix it. This is where a lot of my discomfort comes from. I never “play” as KY said; I simply ask and am walked through the process. Thus the construction of me as an author stems from bits and pieces of each one of them b/c I am building upon the knowledge they provide me with in order to create whatever it is I am doing. Is this right or wrong? Should they be considered a part of my process? Well, essentially they are the initial part of my “composing” progress, they get me to where I need to be and then I must take it from there. EX: Last fall for Rhet Theory I had David create a graphic design of American Gangster that paralleled what I wrote about. I sent him a draft of my ideas and he came up with the design of the image (most of you will probably not remember but he took Denzel Washington and an image of Frank Lucas and faded FL’s image with blacks and reds with words that highlighted my argument). By doing that, David became a part of my composing process.

Technology creates an interesting intersection for me b/c I am dependent on it but dependent with a lot of help from people.

My favorite space to create textual inscribing is with a pen and paper. No not the traditional thing you may be thinking. I am list-maker from way back. I often color code my lists and put them in fun notebooks that I buy. I write notes to myself inside these lists and am also known to draw images within them. I find that I get great satisfaction at highlighting off (not simply crossing off) my star points and then getting to create a new one. I created at least three or more lists daily and it is the first thing I do when I sit down at my computer and the last thing I do before I go to bed. Perhaps this sounds neurotic (it’s true) but I find it to be calming and creative and often lay out my ideas in the form of lists.

The conclusion of all of this is that I believe the construction of anything (from a list to a website) is done with many people filling their different roles, thus many authors create one, single author. At the end of the project, one name may remain but with the help of others.

rory said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
rory said...

I agree with Leah in that the materiality of literacy is important in terms of access. And the ramifications are obvious: the literate are commonly associated with affluence, while the illiterate are associated with poverty. Cynthia Selfe speaks to the importance of this situation in her 1998 CCCC Chair’s Address: “Technology and Literacy: A Story about the Perils of Not Paying Attention.” In it, Selfe notes that we seem eager to implement technology into our classroom, but we rarely teach students how to pay critical attention to the issues engendered by technology. Selfe also provides extensive statistics in how affluent schools continually gain access to new technologies, thus increasing their technological prowess and literacy, while poor schools are forced to get by with what they have (which isn’t much). Worse: students of color populate most of these poor schools. Many of you, of course, know this unfortunate circumstance by another name: the Digital Divide.

This point of access seems incredible important as we look to the future. Currently, we are inundated with technology, and a simple reflection of your daily routine is probably evidence enough. The question becomes, however, when does it end? The snide, yet probably accurate response is, “Never.” But what are the consequences of this incessant growth? Many people are already behind what I like to call “the technology times,” and with this current rate of expansion, many more are sure to fall behind as well. In the past, it seemed as if being unable to read was the number one indicator of illiteracy. Now, simply not having a computer with Internet access, let alone being able to read what is on the Internet, can severely put someone at a societal, economic, and intellectual disadvantage.

In addition, how does the materiality of literacy affect academia? It seems that now, more than ever, the literacies fostered outside of the academy are altering how we teach as well as what we teach. Computer writing classrooms? E-Portfolios? Webzines? Facebook? Were any of these associated with freshmen composition ten years ago? Moreover, as Yancey mentions in her CCCC Chair's Address, the compositions composed outside the academy continually counterpoint those composed inside the academy. It makes you wonder what our classes (as well as others in different disciplines throughout the academy) will look like in another five to ten years.

As for “textual inscribing,” I am a major proponent of the screen (i.e., the computer). I have always had an aversion to chalk (most likely because of the Cheetos-esque residue it leaves behind), and my atrocious penmanship has resulted in me avoiding pen/pencil and paper confrontations as if they were dentist appointments. That, and I can type much, much, much faster than I can hand write. Oh, and I’m a horrible speller (thank you spell checker).

The affordances of the computer are numerous, and Bolter touches on many of them. The number one affordance for me is immediacy and efficiency. My common writing tool, Microsoft Word, simplifies the revising, editing, and composing process, but it also provides different tools to alter the style or typography of my writing. I mean, isn't this and this fun and cool? Most importantly, I enjoy writing that is legible, which the writing in Word certainly is—unless you are using some weird font. In which case I say: stop it.

Katie said...

The materiality of literacy is a critical factor in determining who has access to certain literacies. It seems that as our literacies become more specialized and reliant on specific mediums the more people are excluded from the conversation. Clearly, without access to the tools of a literacy one would find it very difficult to converse with the literate group. Another way to think about this might be that as literacy becomes increasingly dependent on materials and specific mediums the more specialized our literacies become and thus the more illiterate we all perhaps are...
My preference for writing would have to be my computer. The sound of my typing acts as a source of motivation. When I get really into something and am on a role I can hear myself writing and am thus motivated to keep up the pace. As this sound accompanies my writing on the screen it is easy to feel a false sense of progression (which is always good in this case). Another reason that I like to compose on a computer is that it is like sculpting. Like wet clay, a text can remain fluid and malleable for as long as I want it to. For me, small revision has become an intrical part of my regular typing. I rarely write more than a paragraph without going back to read what I have written. Given this, I find that when I write by hand on paper my writing is all over the place and where I end is usually no where near where I started – even if I am trying to stay focused.
There seems to be an element of this process that clearly influences not just how I express myself, but what and how I am thinking in the first place. This also means that the way I compose has come to depend on what I am writing on. For example, when I write by hand I almost never write in complete sentences. I am in a constant state of freewriting if it even goes that far. Otherwise I degenerate to mere lists and lines that struggle to find a connection between my ideas.
While I am sure the computer is responsible for helping my writing quite a bit, there are also quite a few detractions here. To name a few… As we all know computers are not always the most reliable. Neither are they necessarily as portable as say pen and paper. Plus, there are the expenses that go along with this.

Jennifer O'Malley said...

Does materiality make a difference? Originally, I didn’t think it did. However, after sorting through my thoughts and experiences, I have come to the conclusion that it depends. I believe it depends on the person reading or reviewing the materiality. For example, in my ENC1101 class last week I introduced a typography exercise to my students. We watched a few of the digital typography movie clips and I noted their reactions. One student in particular commented, “If all books were written like this, they’d be a lot easier to read. They’d be a lot more interesting.” For this student, yes, materiality makes a difference. This student would rather read words through digital typography than say a book with unmovable text. In contrast, I prefer the written words in front of me imprinted on a physical object. I favor books, magazines, print-outs, etc., as opposed to reading online. I enjoy marking up my texts and leaving my notes behind in the margins. I also feel that I interact with the material better. Why is this? I am currently attempting to figure this out. Perhaps it’s because this materiality is what I’ve grown up with. It’s what I’m used to. It’s what I’m comfortable with. A turning of a page is a mini accomplishment for me, fourteen down, twenty left to go. However, I have recently found myself attempting to read online and on my computer more often. Does it matter if I read the same material digitally as opposed to textually? Do I learn better? Do I absorb the material quicker? I have yet to confirm any substantial conclusions; although, I have realized that the more I attempt to read digitally, the more comfortable I am becoming with this materiality.

Currently, my favorite space for textual inscribing is my bright pink Mead Five Star notebook. And as soon as I run out of pages in this one I will move on to my generic purple notebook that I bought on sale at a Dollar General for twenty-five cents. I must note that this is the space where I organize ideas for my own writing, not where or how I choose to communicate with others. Regardless, a lined notebook is my preferred choice. Now I’m asking myself, is this old-fashioned? I adore my notebooks. For me, a blank page is far less daunting than a blank screen with a blinking cursor chanting, “write, write, write” with its every flicker.

emily said...

I’m going to go ahead and make a broad generalization and say, materiality of literacy is dependent on time. By time, I don’t mean I’m going to write an email instead of a letter if I’m in a hurry, rather I mean if I lived 100 years ago, I’d be writing a telegram—and it would be brief. It seems that literacy is entirely dependent on technology and consumerism. If we were not advanced, we wouldn’t have the variety of options that are currently available. Since we no longer rely on a steamship to deliver news from Europe two weeks late, globalization has resulted.

As each generation becomes increasingly more comfortable with new technologies, the very definition of literacy changes. When my English-teacher grandmother was alive, literacy was reading, writing, and creating print text. That definition wouldn’t even hold water today. I remember reading her letters and they were conversations, diary entries, and stories; that literacy seems lost. But then again, what is the definition of literacy? It seems anything but static.

While I tend to compose primarily on my laptop, I find that my experience is different depending on the space in which I compose. I need to have sunlight, I need to have noise, and I need to have a chunk of time to have a successful composing experience. I can confidently say that we are an inscription-spoiled generation to demand all of those things. I wish I could have captured the disdain on our faces when a professor over the summer said we’d be hand writing essays for our final test. I’ve never seen so many people pause, shake their writing hand in the air, grimace, and, with loathing, place pen back to paper. Nor will I ever hear the end of my mom’s complaining: “When I was in my master’s program, I had to pay a woman to type on a typewriter since we were only allowed three errors on a page before we had to start over. She charged 15 cents a page, and, believe me, there was no such thing as ‘cut and paste.’” If I’ve heard it once, I am sure to hear it again. I guess I can just tell her now that I’m in a different literacy generation.

Brittney said...

Trees and lead. Nature and minerals. I enjoy the texture and phyisical embodiment of paper, the ability to throw away with a “swoosh” in the can (I miss sometimes) or erase with a swipe of the pencil. The paper allows me to map out my ideas. I anticipate the wholeness of my work especially for longer papers. On a computer, the work seems singular. I have to move page by page in order to make sure it’s together causing me to move from beginning to last wasteing time by scrolling. With paper, I can lay it all out in order. I can see it all at the same time. I can cut and mark and reference paragraphs to the next with no difficulty. I like the messiness of it, not just delete a paragraph, but if I choose, see later why I did such a thing. Why I scratched that section out, or moved that up or down: similar to track chages, but with the messiness. With the pencil, I can erase. Nothing is permanent. With a pen, I feel anxiety. I’m more likely to slow down, scared of it finality.

Of course this technique is time consuming, for I realize it must be revised for digital consumption. But if I begin with paper and really revise effectively, the digital medium becomes another way to revise and proofread. I must again go line by line as I type, giving me another chance to revise what I wrote. If I really enjoy the writing produced, I keep the copy of manuscript just in case the digital medium fails me and I have to start over. I never start from scratch with a manuscript text. My ideas are stored again in a tangible place of discovery. I like to feel my creations and with that I also like to feel consumption, print. But that's a different question to blog.

Liane said...

Materiality for me is somewhat rhetorically dependent; the situation doesn't always warrant my preferred medium of computer screen. For example, I jotted down notes for this post on the blog as I rode in the passenger seat of a car on its way from Tampa to Tallahassee, and then expanding on those noted thoughts on the screen now. I know that as a child and even in my undergraduate studies I wrote things on paper and typed them up following my drafting process. We didn't yet have personal computers, although campus computer labs were starting to emerge as "the norm" for producting papers (although not necessarily writing them in a process-oriented way). Soon after that, my workplace moved me to digital writing because email became, very quickly, a widely-used business tool.

This is not to imply that my digital literacy is at a sophisticated level - it's just that I prefer the screen to the paper tablet now, for what I deem to be "real" writing. Although I use paper to take notes in class, for no other reason than I hate carting my laptop around. The screen has become my home writing space, even if it is basic word processing. I also find that I use the internet simultaneously as I write or read - I have Merriam Websters site up so i can find a meaning or choose the right word, or I might google a writer I'm reading about if I haven't heard of her/him. It doesn't really seem like much in the way of digital progress, but its more of a personal mindset now -- I can't write effectively without being able to delete and use the cut-paste function...or even just to create the space to insert another paragraph in a place that needs expansion. I draft now, also -- actually write and then rewrite -- which I never did on paper. I edited on paper, but I never got into a full-on revision. So even the simplest conversion to word processing has enabled my writing in ways that I can't begin to fathom where digital means not available. I try to incorporate more and more digital affordance as I learn to do more things, and I'm never disappointed that I tried. Remember white-out? I found a dried-up bottle in my "office" the other day and it reminded me that writing with computers opens us to creating without the constraint, even if self-imposed, of the lines or margins of the page.

Gil said...

I believe that the materiality of literacy makes an obvious difference in terms of access and, as a branch of access, portability. It is easy to say that the material manifestation of a particular document determines who will read and acquire the document's knowledge. For instance, the socioeconomic status of much of poverty stricken Malaysia will prevent many people from accessing and utilizing the wide birth of knowledge available on the internet. At the same time, the portability of written manuscript gives academia access to ideas and concepts once alien. Would we know what "Confucius Say", without the portability of written manuscripts brought from China?

The materiality of literacy doesn't only determine who will view certain documents based on status or wealth, it also determines who will not have access based on personal choice. For instance, if a particular document is published only in the popular magazine "Scientific America", a large portion of the population is cut off from the knowledge to be gained from the article-- namely the population of people who choose not to subscribe to "Scientific America". If that same article was published in "Scientific America" and also simultaneously broadcast on MSN.com the article would reach a wider audience.

I toggle between two preferred methods of writing. I find myself getting impatient with handwriting and most often compose on my Mac (which you are all terribly at a loss for not having). I prefer the computer because of the speed and elegance of the rhythmic sound of typing, it's mesmerizing. On the other hand I enjoy writing by hand occasionally, provided the paper is thick and lined and the pen is of thick black or blue gel. I feel like I can write faster if the ink pours onto the page in thick, dark letters.

As a side note, I do tend to hand draw all of my charts and graphs at work, I feel that if I'm going to devote enough of my time to make myself a chart or graph I want it to be mine and mine alone. In such cases I use green graph paper and a really sharp #2 wooden pencil, nothing encourages work like the smell of a freshly sharpened #2 pencil...

Natalie said...

I would have to echo what has been said here: materiality most certainly has an effect of literacy. Undoubtedly as our technologies change and “evolve” so does our definition of literacy (I would have to guess that 50 years ago being asked to define literacy in a class would not have been as complicated as it was for us the other day.) However, I have to agree with Liane that the materiality of our composition has a definite rhetorical element. It is this rhetorical quality which I "attempt" to find and discuss with my students. When is it more appropriate/more effective to compose on paper versus on the screen? When is a visual representation more effective than a performative one or a written one, and visa versa? Why do we choose one medium over another and what effect does that have on how the piece is read? What role does your message, language choice, and intended audience play in all this? As new technologies evolve we suddenly have a vast array of choices for communicating our messages; however, often those messages are placed in front of us—or targeted at us in the case of advertisement—but we are not taught how to utilize and create within those mediums ourselves. I constantly find myself struggling to learn or familiarize myself with new programs because I cannot shake the nagging feeling that there may be a better way for me to express what I am trying to communicate; another program which conveys my message in a more rhetorically powerful way. It is an exhausting race though, and one I feel like I am consistently losing—-particularly when I find a new program that my students “like totally used in, like, middle school.”

Personally, I find myself a woman divided. I like the computer for certain composing and invention processes, but when it came time for extensive thesis work, I found myself in the notebook aisle at Target scoping out the most attractive fivestar notebook I could find (the more aesthetically pleasing it is, the more I like writing in it). Like was mentioned earlier, I like utilizing multiple internet tabs behind my MS word document for quick and word and author searches (and the occasional email check to give my mind a break). Some research projects I outline on paper, some I prefer on the computer (the larger they are the likely they are to be on paper, something about visually spreading out the paper across my floor helps my mind function). Likewise, at times I prefer to make an actual phone call while other times I find myself fighting with T9 writing a text. Other times a Facebook message becomes the best option. Sometimes I am writing a .doc only to wish I cold be creating a PowerPoint or a short movie clip. Again, there is that rhetorical element.

Just a quick comment: I find those new computes with the screen you can write on particularly interesting. Bolter mentions that when modes of writing undergo changes we sometimes struggle to make the shift. To me such a computer helps us make that shift—-or bridge the gap from one literacy to the other. If you want to write then go ahead, if you want to type then go ahead. Interesting stuff.

S. Andon said...

Ok, hopefully not quite too late to the party. I've spent almost all of the first week, and some of the first meeting, thinking that - hey - medium could be anything as crazy as rock as chisel (worked for Moses) to wood engravings, to smoke signals, to what I will consider my favorite medium: sky writing. Seriously, what better way to communicate a powerful message (almost Godlike) from above than via smoke expulsion from a small aircraft (http://www.skytypers.com/)? How does smoke contribute to the discussion of materiality -- it vanishes after time -- and, unlike pens and paper, is unavailable to most.

Kidding aside, I am enamored with the oral tradition, one which potentially opened literacy (in terms of memorization) and access in older times. While face-to-face communication has its drawbacks - and group reading aloud a textbook with all of you would be one - I truly think that it is one's thoughts that enable and empower discourse. Consider it - it's a very active and obviously participatory means of communication that allows both parties to complete a circuit of thought.

Far too often, texting reminds me of the ambiguity of language. It also requires a grasp of a variety of vernaculars depending on whom you are communicating with. I already spent last week's class complaining about the grammar...but wouldn't you think differently of someone who would speak to you that way verbally? Imagine subtitles under everything a person in-front of, or next to, you is saying. Is that ok? For me it isn't...think about it, if we never conversed in print (a la 16th C.) then I wouldn't know any words visually and all of this txt grammar nonsense wouldn't even matter because I would be solely focused on the oral nature of words.

After skywriting, that has to be the best way to go.

Tony said...

Two spaces come immediately to mind, one screen and one print. Over the course of my college career, I've become a screen writer--and the space in which I most prefer to compose on a screen is within a word processor. One of the things I've found most enjoyable with word processors is experimenting with poetry and especially fiction writing. I don't know if it has much to do with the material conditions of a computer--but if I couldn't type proficiently (quickly), it wouldn't be the space of my choice. I love the malleability of online writing--the ease of the delete key! I also have enjoyed making my lists of favorite quotes in word documents. In general, I think I compose more quickly on a computer.

Another favorite space is my commonplace book, which is a small black book. Aesthetically--and I think in my sense of self as a writer--the commonplace book plays a big role. It's a black leather-bound book the size of an index card, with a red leather band that can tie it shut. It also has a red leather bookmark. My wife Nicole bought it for me as a gift one Christmas. I record ideas in it: it hardly serves as a journal, though occasionally a short entry is made. Rather, I record ideas for books I'd like to write, inventions the world could use, details about characters in my own creative work, and so forth. It is my inspiration book, but also a resting place for my best ideas. Indeed, there is an imprint on the front cover that reads "my best ideas." If this little book were to fall into the wrong hands, who knows what could happen! Certainly, this book has a unique conceptual function in forming my writing identity--though I wouldn't say it's a more potent metaphor than the word processor.

Ruth Kistler said...

Well, I think it is interesting that so many young(er than me) people still find paper and pencil to be their preferred writing medium. Obviously my age/technology-orientation relationship theory is not going to pan out. Although I originally learned to write papers by hand, later publishing finished versions with my then state-of-the-art self-correcting Smith-Corona electric typewriter (yes, I am that old!), and only in graduate school getting the chance to move up to composition at a computer keyboard, I now rarely write anything by hand. Occasionally I make a grocery list, and each month there are a few checks I have to write out by hand to pay the bills I just can’t figure out how to pay electronically, but for almost everything else I use my computer. Honestly, I would be lost without it.

One of the reasons that I love my computer is because I rarely write a sentence without rewriting it many times. When I used to write drafts by hand, they were always so filled with cross-outs and insertions, as well as circles and arrows showing changes in order, that no one could ever decipher them but (if I was lucky) me. My self-correcting Smith-Corona helped a bit, so that I could undo and revise without having to start completely over for minor adjustments, but once the sheet was out of the machine, there was no going back. Computers, on the other hand, allow me unlimited corrections with no reduced readability at all. They also point out errors I might otherwise fail to notice and promote easy rearranging of sentences and paragraphs, which is important to me. I can use my computer to quickly and easily check word meanings or find synonyms if I’m struggling to find just the right word to express my thought, and I can access a vast array of other sources of information in seconds as well. Another important aspect, for someone like me who has so much trouble keeping track of paper, is that everything important that I need to keep is saved in one convenient location and easily retrievable (even if I do “lose” a document because I’ve forgotten where I saved it, I can easily retrieve it with a simple search).

Like Kara (or, more likely, worse than Kara), I am woefully uneducated about many of the finer points having to do with the care and maintenance of my precious writing machine. I, too, have to rely on the knowledge of loved ones and strangers alike to help me out when I run into glitches (which happens less and less as time goes on, but still often enough). Still, there is no doubt that I would not trade my electronic writing space for anything. It has completely transformed what I am able to accomplish as a writer.

Matt D said...

The advantage of going last is that you can poach from (er, uh, synthesize) others' ideas, and I plan to take full advantage of that. In this particular case I've got a treasure trove-- these posts made me want to respond to the post more than the prompt itself. The fragments:
1. One thing that I think should be kept in mind (although it's less often practically applicable these days), is that materiality may only take on enormous significance when our conception of literacy is primarily written-- the relationship between literacy, materiality, and access in oral culture may look much different.
2. We seem to have an Orwellian awareness of (learning) new technology-- not fear, per se, but something closer to anxiousness, which I think stems from traversing uncharted territory and maybe nervousness about appropriation. We see the pen and paper combo as transparent in this sense, but keep in mind, none of us just picked those two up and went at it-- we went through years of training (oh cursive notebook, how I hated you) to learn to see through it...
3. Tentative thesis: In our system, there is an inherent need for literacy to even address literacy issues. To get the point of discussing this in this manner, we all needed to be in the 99th percentile on the planet in terms of economic and educational status. To do it on a blog, add technological knowledge and access. We're so meta.
4. And here comes the real poach-- I want to ignore the recipe and cook up Kara's lists, Rory's speed (with the inherent tension between speed and careful consideration), and Katie's sense of the digital text's malleability and add to it a cupful of what Liane was getting at: context. I'll evade the question and say that my favorite medium for textual inscription is contextual above all else. Add a pinch of salt, and serve.

Leigh said...

I could be biased here, as a member of the first generation to really grow up online, with computers and chat rooms and word processors as a given. Materiality is so fluid, depending on whose definition you use, it's impossible to pin down one answer. Some people only know their own writing in terms of Times New Roman and the formality the word processor imparts. Others see the computer as foreign, and rely on paper to compose their thoughts.

Because I was really born on the cusp of the first truly digital generation, I don't know that I can choose a single medium as my "favorite" (which is no doubt supremely annoying), but it depends on my purposes and mood. When I want to feel professional, computers and my medium of choice. The permanence of seeing my words in "print" somehow fools me into believing my words are more profound. To that end, I can very easily share my work with others- be it on a blog, email, or discussion board. I am an expert at editing myself as I go: my dexterity on the keyboard only makes it easier to delete bad word choices or unrelated thoughts. I could never post something online without first proofreading it, changing words, deleting sentences, clarifying thoughts (and yes, I am in pseudo-professional mode as I am sharing my thoughts online). One example of my "professional/computer" mindset: when I am commenting on student papers, I like to use the comment function in Word rather than commenting by hand- I feel like I've got more authority when my comments are typed. The computer is also advantageous when I am feeling creative. If I want to include color, illustrations, or play with font, size, justification, etc., then I feel much more comfortable using a computer. My artistic skills are limited, but I can manipulate images and text easily with a computer.

On the other hand, there is something about paper that still captivates me. Writing something out by hand personalizes the content on a level nothing else can compare to, and I usually reserve handwriting for highly personal tasks. When I am trying to sort out my thoughts, I write them out by hand. I write my notes for class and readings by hand. When I use paper to write, I have more room to explore, make mistakes, and be unconventional. There is something to be said for making a mistake and having to physically cross it out, the black marks on the page still a reminder of its existence and my "mistakes". With paper, I can write random phrases and ideas in my favorite notebook and not worry that I'm being silly or unreasonable. Tangibility somehow gives me permission to mess up, perhaps because it lacks the formality of a computer. I know no one beyond myself has to see my writing, and that is hugely empowering. One downside: I'll often find myself writing furiously, only to get to the middle of a sentence and forget what exactly my point was.

Jill said...

Like many of my classmates have said before me, the materiality of literacy is directly associated with access. Literacy has always been linked with societal and economic status. The more access people have to literacy materials, the more power they acquire. As cliché as it sounds, knowledge really is power. The efforts made in history and the present in reading and writing materials expressly reflect the current culture. Today’s age is concerned with convenience, expediency, efficiency, and time management. The digital apparatuses that emerge are reflective of those qualities and are meant to serve those purposes. In order to stay relevant in the digital age, classrooms should take those measures necessary to keep up with the current literacies and recognize the importance of access to literacy.
To that end, my own predilections are actually inconsistent in nature. I tend to use electronic means for carrying out my writing space needs; however, I find myself still leaning on the good and reliable pen/paper method at certain times. I write all of my papers on Microsoft Word. I find the ease of revision practices and the visual manipulation tools resourceful. Quite plainly, I can type faster than I can write with a pen on paper and I can delete, arrange, reformat, and review much easier than I could with its paper counterpart. I also find that if I use a computer to write, I enjoy the access I have to the internet and the overall access I can have to my work if I forget the paper at home, it’s already on a flash drive or I’ve emailed it to myself to be readily available. Electronically, I can make my paper more accessible for others as well. I can email it to them, post it as a blog, post it on an html website, etc. As for cell phones, I’d much rather talk to someone on the phone than txt, but sometimes the situation calls for the less time-consuming action of txting. What also persuades me to use phone calls instead of txting is the cost it is to me.
These choices construct me as an author by showing my eclectic approaches to literacy. Just like I find certain genres appropriate for certain situations, I find certain literacy modes appropriate for certain situations. I am adaptive and I view my own literacy and writing practices as I do the process method of pedagogy: eternally revisable.

Scott said...

As many of you are aware, I served as the education program officer at the Baton Rouge Area Foundation before moving to Tallahassee. My main responsibilities were to manage our education and scholarship funds and to track both the projects and students that had received funding. One day I visited the Baton Rouge Adult Literacy Center (we had awarded the center a grant to buy new computers for their technology initiative). When I walked through the computer lab, I saw a room filled with middle-age African American men and women, all of whom either fumbled with their mouse or tapped the keyboard as though it might burn their fingertips. These were advanced students, the executive director told me, meaning they were able to read and write at a sixth-grade level or above but were unable to operate a word processor--much less the Internet. In remembering their hands--some calloused, some scarred, all uncertain--I try to empathize with the experience of using Microsoft Word for the first time, and I realize that I've interiorized word processing software to such an extent that I can't remember when those programs were ever foreign to me; I can't remember when my hands were hesitant to touch the keyboard or manipulate the mouse. Even now as I struggle to learn programs such as Dreamweaver, my hands find nothing strange in the plastic touch of my lap top, in the electrical hum of my hard drive. Why? When I was ten years old, I decided that I wanted to become a writer. My dad responded by bringing home a typewriter he had fished out of the school board's surplus. Soon after, my mom returned from the bank where she worked with a computer. I don't remember there being a rough transition from one to the other--only that the sound of my typing had changed.

In writing the preceding paragraph, I had hoped to provide a tangible example of the points you all have made regarding materiality, literacy, and access(all points with which I agree, consequently). I realize now that it also gives me a point of departure to discuss my preferred medium in which to write. Despite the fact that I've typed since an early age, it wasn't until I started the program here that I made a conscious decision to write almost exclusively on my computer (and even then, I've only started doing so in the months since I bought my lap top). I've come to appreciate my computer for many of the affordances already mentioned, namely convenience and speed (it seems I can type almost as quickly and erratically as I think). But I also value my computer for two other reasons. First, I love the fact that the Internet provides us with the opportunity to communicate with such a far-reaching, global audience. Second, writing on my computer has changed the manner in which I write. Rather than trying to compose first in my head and then onto the page, all in the attempt to write a single draft, I now write in multiple drafts. Some aspect of word processing programs have allowed me--finally--to view the written word as fluid and malleable, something that can be shaped and re-shaped, often on the same screen. I can also use images, sound, and typography to create intended effects that would not be possible with pen and paper alone. Perhaps this is the overall affordance I've come to value in regard to digital composition--more so than the affordances I previously identified: Composing on a computer allows us more tools with which to affect our audience (I write this sentence with a nod toward Liane's and Natalie's inclusion of rhetoric in their responses).

While my computer has become my preferred medium--or rather, my preferred space--in which to compose, I haven't abandoned pen and paper altogether. I still use them to keep a journal. I do so because the act of writing by hand forces me to stop and reflect more deeply about what I am saying. Writing in a journal reminds me of what I miss about writing with pen and paper. I miss flipping through the blank pages of a notebook only to see them filled with my script, much in the same way Leah enjoyed seeing her work in ink on handmade paper. I miss rubbing my fingertips over those pages and feeling the grooves where I pressed the tip of the pen into the body of the page. Perhaps more than anything, I miss the ink stains on my fingertips. In short, I miss the tactility of writing with pen and paper. I'm willing, however, to forgo those sensations.

Tony said...

The materiality of composing is a strong desire for accessibility and convenience, but with a need for the personal touch. It's situational for each individual based on comfort level and technicaly savvyness.

Scott said...

So it appears easier for us to determine the affordances that people are pointing out, but bit more difficult for to pin down what the class means in general by materiality. So on the one hand, the class seems to be defining "materiality" as a list of affordance based of their personal preferences concerning writing. On the other hand, we wonder if there is a general concept we can pull out of this list. Are we basically saying that the materiality of writing is essentially physical. Are the affordances listed inherently physical in nature? Is the materiality of writing based on the physicality of the mode of writing we choose and access we have?

Ruth Kistler said...

In surveying the class' blog entries, we noticed five distinct trends:

People thought the materiality of literacy was important because it affected/was affected by...

(1) Access (5x)
(2) Efficiency (time) (3x)
(3) Social construction/context/comfort zone (4x)
(4) Affordances/limitations (4x)
(5) Rhetorical situation (3x)

S. Andon said...

"Something brilliant about the materiality of writing." There, we said it. It appears that we have covered a range of emotions regarding the materiality of literacy. From nostalgic, tangible, and sensory pen and paper desires to notions of access to materials (such as lumber, pulp, sky, lead, etc.)

Kara T. said...

We believe that our classmates define materiality of composing as:

1) access
2) materiality is when you understand literacy, primarily written
3) we live in an oral culture, which changes the meaning of literacy
4) tehre tends to be a fear/anxiety of technology a level of comfort...nostalgia for pen and paper

kathiyancey said...

Notes from discussion:

How do we define composing?
How do we define materiality?

What makes composing composing? Semiotic? Music as symbols

Does composing have to include words?

Petroglyph?
Manuscript?
Scrapbook?
Book?
Screen?
Video?

Visual on a timeline?
Verbal on a timeline?
Aural on a timeline?

The social turn (John Trimbur)
The technological turn?
The material turn?
The networked turn?
The oral turn: secondary orality?

Access
Materials (including techn; what you inscribe on and with, including voice)
Human—body parts
Text
Literacy—reading
Conversation (context)
Sensory—feel, sound, paper, pencil

Ong? Western view—visual; text dehumanizes?; space (visual; completing and shaping; arrangement; rhetorical space; text as utterance to text as object; commodity; second orality. Awareness: spontaneous; intertextuality.

kathiyancey said...

The full set of notes . . .

How do we define composing?
How do we define materiality?

What makes composing composing? Semiotic? Music as symbols

Does composing have to include words?

Petroglyph?
Manuscript?
Scrapbook?
Book?
Screen?
Video?

Visual on a timeline?
Verbal on a timeline?
Aural on a timeline?

The social turn (John Trimbur)
The technological turn?
The material turn?
The networked turn?
The oral turn: secondary orality?

Access
Materials (including techn; what you inscribe on and with, including voice)
Human—body parts
Text
Literacy—reading
Conversation (context)
Sensory—feel, sound, paper, pencil
Time

Ong? Western view—visual; text dehumanizes?; space (visual; completing and shaping; arrangement; rhetorical space; text as utterance to text as object; commodity; second orality. Awareness: spontaneous; intertextuality.

Libraries? Space and organ methods—private; public. Reinforce the class system.
Commodification of the book: redefining the relation of people to the book. Library authored: a text. Value we give to people coming to the library: echoes the cultural times. Atmosphere of the library—Nintendo. Book sacred. Patronage: class. Going retail. Seattle’s Public Living Room. Library as social space? Retail space becoming more like library: a space for composition. Where does silence belong? Possibilties?

Bolter? Remediation. Repurposing, refashioning—elements of older media become part of the new? And new can return to the old. Theory of circulation of texts: medium. Hypertext: associative: new genre. So is it a vehicle for a rhetorical situation? Hypertextuality: non-linear. Contrast between linear prose and multi-linear? “Threat” to good writing? R we re-defining it? Hypertext as “natural” processes of thinking? What’s the relationship between medium and our thinking?