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Invent Your Own Writing Technology Project

Invent your own writing technology project

The first group of readings we are considering this semester discuss the idea that writing is itself a technology, and what and how we write are tied to the technologies/tools we use to write with in the first place. Both of these ideas are sometimes tricky for us to think about nowadays since the basic technologies of writing– pencils, pens, paper, computers, etc.– have become so transparent. The goal of this project is to attempt to make this aspect of writing, what is usually invisible to us, visible.

This writing assignment has two parts. First, write a 20 or fewer word “text” of any type and on any subject that uses “technologies” found around where you live, in “nature,” and/or created by you. Second, write a short essay (about 1500 words, or around 5-6 pages) to explain how you created the first part of this writing experiment, what the first part of the writing experiment exposed (or didn’t) for you about the relationship between writing and technology. Be sure to reference and quote some of the assigned readings on writing and technology in order to support your point and explain your experiences.

Here are some things to think about:

  • For the first part of this project, you cannot use any of the modern conveniences of writing for any part of the process whatsoever. This includes any sort of purchased paper, inks, pens, pencils, crayons, typewriters, chalk, paints, brushes, or electronic devices. You also shouldn’t use materials you find around the house that are more or less obvious extensions of common writing technologies. For example, I would encourage you to not to complete your experiment with writing materials like paint, nail polish, white out, cardboard, lumber, etc.
  • This also means that you cannot use any of these technologies during any of the steps in your writing process. In other words, while I have no way to really to enforce this, it seems to me that it would more or less be “cheating” to write out a draft of your 20 or so words and then use the “natural” and/or “created” materials to write the final draft of the project. However, you are certainly allowed to make your own writing utensils and materials. To make your writing inventions, use materials found outside (in the yard, in a park, etc.) and/or around the house (the kitchen is often a good source).
  • All projects must involve the most basic technology of writing, an alphabet. More specifically, you need to write your project in English (as opposed to some other language or form of representation like pictographs.)
  • I’d also encourage you to think about your writing inventions in relation to the writing tools that you are used to using. For example, it seems to me that most writing technologies are permanent, portable, inexpensive, easy to use, etc. Of course, this isn’t always the case– for example, billboards are an excellent writing/communicating technology but are certainly not portable or inexpensive– and I can imagine many interesting and successful invented writing technologies that are not permanent, portable, or easy to use.
  • Do not use or create writing utensils or materials that have serious potential for being dangerously flammable, poisonous, toxic, unsafe, or unpleasant (e.g., a variety of bodily fluids). Also, do not create a writing project that causes some sort of permanent damage to property. This is supposed to be a fun writing experiment, not a hazardous one.
  • To share your project, you will need to post an image of whatever you “invent” to the “show and tell” discussion on your wordpress.com site and then share that link on the class web site/blog.  This is easy to do, and you’ll see what I mean when we get to it.  One way or the other, you will need to take some sort of photo or video of your project to show it to others.
  • Remember that the main purpose of this project is for you to think critically and carefully about the connections between the things we are reading and discussing– the theory of writing as a technology– and the writing you “invent”– the actual practice of writing with minimal technologies. Be sure to make references and connections between your writing experiment and the assigned readings for this first part of the class. Doing this is much more important than making a really cool writing invention, so keep your priorities straight. You should strive for the best writing project that you can “invent;” however, you should spend most of your time and effort in writing and thinking about your reflective essay.


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