Topics in Emerging Media and Communications

The New Medium of Writing

with 7 comments

For the purposes of this post I will call myself a writer. I have always loved tellings stories and majored in creative writing in college. The method I use as a writer is to create a story from photographic images archived in my mind. I have to pick the right photographs that best represent scene, character, action, climax, diamante and then translate those photographs from mental images to 2D written words on a page. I’ve tried hundreds of times to arrange the words just right; pouring over my worn thesaurus, adjusting and readjusting meter and tone. I cut paragraphs, characters and plot until the piece becomes as over-processed mess.

Sometimes that mess is published and I’m shocked, shocked! that people enjoy, even praise my work. Taking classes in creative writing was supposed to help soften the blow of critique, but workshops make me crave critical eyes. I want those glaring red slashes and question marks. I must be some kind of masochist because I beg to be exposed for a fraud disguised as an aspiring writer. Or maybe I’m not a fraud. Maybe the problem is that translating imagination into print is a difficult, if not impossible task.

Reading Hayles’ Material Metaphors article made me think about the print medium’s meaning in literary studies. As a writer and book-lover, I have to admit that before reading this article my view was that of a purist. I love having a hardbound copy of book in my hands, its weight and musty smell are old friends. I love the thrill of entering a physical bookstore, all those copies of books ready to be enjoyed. I refuse to own a Kindle because I am afraid an electronic book reader threatens the connection I have with the book, and therefore the ideas captured in print within the book. I have a difficult time separating the medium from the message, so to speak.

Hayles believes that the concerns I feel can be alleviated if I embrace materiality, where technology and the mind intersect into a more fully encompassed medium. Materiality that “emerges fromt the dynamic interplay between the richness of a physically robust world and human intelligence as it crafts this physicality to create meaning” sounds like what I’ve been looking for as a writer; a way to project my mental pictures to the reader in a new, more effective way. I love print but I feel stifled as text alone cannot convey the rich, meaningful landscape in my mind. The promise that materiality won’t eliminate print, but will add to the reader’s experience of the text is intriguing. What kind of digital possibilities beyond hyperlinks and embedded content could there be to convey a 3D story?  What might this technotext look like? Will it be so effective that the book will become outdated, and eventually die off?  These are questions I don’t have answers for, but I am open to looking at my own writing and at literary studies from a different perspective. In fact, I find the possibilities as exciting as sitting down to craft a new story.


Written by HiuHiMedia

October 6, 2010 at 6:30 am

Posted in Technology

Tagged with , ,

7 Responses

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  1. So glad to hear Hayles’ made a bit of an impact on your perception about books and other types of printed media. Working in the newspaper business, our industry is preparing for the day when print goes away. Rumors are already circulating that the NYTimes may go all digital by 2015.

    According this 2008 article from the New Yorker http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2008/03/31/080331fa_fact_alterman , some day in 2043 would be the last day a newspaper would be delivered to a home.

    The educational marketing department I manage has already transitioned into the digital world and uses an electronic replicated edition of the newspaper to help students learn literacy and writing skills as well as current events, economics and civics.

    A significant number of teachers…and by significant, I mean A TON…passionately objected to the switch from print to digital. Emails that were pages long went on to romantically describe the pleasure they experienced as they skimmed headlines, cut out articles and clipped coupons every morning over a cup of coffee either at the kitchen table or on their bed on a Sunday morning. For those teachers, reading the printed newspaper is a ritual. Change a ritual and you will get fierce rejection. Catholics who remember when Mass was spoken in Latin before the 60s still regret the change. Rituals certainly include elements that can be considered somewhat materialistic.

    Many years ago, I took the hundreds of trophies…I mean books, I had compiled over my lifetime and cashed them in at Half Price Books. It was the best thing I ever did! The money helped pay for many cocktails that I drank to honor the authors and characters I had abandoned (or pimped?).

    I used to be so proud of my collection and displayed them prominently so visitors to my home would be able to classify me as a smart man with a well rounded education and eclectic interests. Once the books found their way on to my bookshelves, they were no longer vessels of knowledge or entertainment, but esthetic elements that decorated my home and reflected my personality!

    I do whatever I can now to avoid bringing another piece of printed material into my home that requires storage as well as dusting! Paper bills be gone! No direct mail allowed beyond my mail box! Get lost phone book! Go away catalogs, shoooo!

    People who read sentences on paper are no more enriched or enlightened than those who read those same sentences on screens. While they are perhaps more emotionally attached, they are just simply more passionate about how they read. And they’ll be more than happy to tell you all about their passion (in ad nauseum). For someone like me who’s trying to live life without clutter, sometimes that passion comes across as judgmental, condescending and elitist. Of course I sound just as passionate too, huh? 🙂

    kevin sharpe

    October 6, 2010 at 6:08 pm

    • And Kev, this is a blog post in of itself. This comment is longer than the post, I think.


      October 6, 2010 at 6:22 pm

  2. I think the technotext your looking for is right here: http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xeidub_cee-lo-green-fuck-you_music
    The combination of text, music and animation add that extra layer of visual literacy that your looking for. I personally like the use of kinctix text to tell a story.


    October 6, 2010 at 6:18 pm

  3. Kev, great comment! I’m not against switching to a paperless life, but there are some books i won’t part with and you can’t make me!

    It was a bit late last night to flesh out what I really wanted to talk about in the post. My original idea was to contemplate the possibilities of enhancing the reading experience with technology. I have this image of reading text that is being projected against a video image that somehow enhances the story. Maybe live-stream images from the Hubble telescope could be viewed while reading a science fiction novel. Would it add to the media or would it change the reader/viewer’s perspective?

    I often hate movies based on books I’ve read because the world created in my own mind is so much richer than the film. I’m concerned that if we translate this idea into literary studies it would impact how we viewed literature. Could this be a bad thing or a good thing? I’m in the camp that new perspectives are always good, but that’s me.


    October 6, 2010 at 6:51 pm

  4. Sydnie, thanks for the link. This is the kind of stuff I’m talking about.

    I love the Wilderness Downtown project. It’s what I picture when I read Hayles. It’s music based, but there’s no reason you couldn’t do the same thing to poetry or a short story and it’s experiential and user interactive.

    Check it out if you haven’t already: http://www.thewildernessdowntown.com/


    October 6, 2010 at 6:54 pm

  5. I think a point that needs to be made, that I don’t believe anyone has brought up yet, is “what happens to the messages in these mediums in the future.”

    While I am neither totally for print materials or digital materials, one thing I do recognize is that with digital mediums, your being able to access the information is completely dependent on some other machine. You may need a computer, or kindle, or ipad, or mp3, and so on. And you don’t really have too much control over which medium that is, because the messages were made in a form that was given to you. You weren’t a part of determining which medium was best.

    So, what happens in 100 years when your g-g-g-grandkids are trying to read a document you left them, chronicling your life as an Emac grad student, and cannot read the document b/c yours was processed with Microsoft Word and their computer runs on something entirely new.

    Do we really believe that everyone will have the sense and ability to convert all of their media objects as the years pass? No. But a book is a book. And though, language may change, the technology of reading words on a printed page does not.

    Brianni Nelson

    October 9, 2010 at 3:49 pm

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