Materiality and Writing

We experimented with materiality with an activity that took us back to the childhood days of coloring with crayons. It was an almost instinctual response to have fun during this activity. The writing produced could be described with adjectives such as creative, vivid, entertaining, and silly. This activity proved that different materials equals a different approach.

What stood out to me during this activity was the relationship between the material and the audience. I looked back at Material Metaphors, technotexts, and media-specific analysis by Katherine Hayles and this statement helped me gain a better understanding, “To change the physical form of the artifact is not merely to change the act of reading…but profoundly to transform the metaphoric network structuring the relation of word to world”(23). Wow. What does that mean?

So, we took an advanced and plainly presented writing and jazzed it up with color and pictures. In doing that we changed the perceived audience from older students and other educated readers to young children. It is not traditional to use crayons for adult writings; our cultural conventions tell us that crayons are for children, so that subconsciously became our new audience.

So, if using crayons to write with is similar to drawing or coloring, then what exactly is blogging? I am struggling with this question a little bit. Looking at the materials used to blog may help to discover the answer: Words(of course), graphics, screen, sounds, images, links, and there are many more. I looked back at Hayles and she pointed out that, “The physical attributes constituting any artifact are potentially infinite…Materiality thus emerges from interactions between physical properties and a work’s artistic strategies”(33).

I think after taking time to better process this statement, the answer to the question what is a blog will become more clear. There will be more to come on this topic later.


One thought on “Materiality and Writing

  1. Scott Reed says:

    One way to think about the equation is this: as soon as you look at a carton of crayons, what do you think about? Probably those qualities you mentioned: childishness, fun, playfulness. Both Wysocki and Hayles make the same basic point that one reason we do that is because the material nature of crayons impacts the way we relate to what is written (because the words are bigger, sloppier, more colorful). In other words, there is a material metaphor connecting crayons and childishness; the material form of the word changes the way it relates to the world. Even though you were writing something serious, you still saw it as childish. Childishness ends up being not an implicit feature of crayons, but a “strategy” we can use to communicate.

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