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The idea that Sarah Arroyo brings forth in her video, “The Choric Swipe”, in which she poignantly alludes to similarities between the swiping motion used on a touchscreen device such as an iPad to the action of erasing with a pencil in order to invoke the idea that new multimodal technologies may “erase” the act of analog writing. On paper, no pun intended, this move away from writing based on technological advancement as Arroyo presents it seems useful; writing technologies moving from analog tools to word processors opened new opportunities to writers. A movement towards this tactile composition process could equally open new opportunities for the authors of the future. Geoffrey Carter has demonstrated the potentiality for this to come about as he documents his adventures composing a video piece on an iPad.

In his recount of the challenges of composing on an iPad- the restrictive file formats, the limitations regarding the ability to incorporate audio files, and the lack of an ability to back up the individual files- Carter reveals that the problems he faced as a result of the tool he chose to use influenced his process of invention beyond the idea of nuisance. The iPad’s limitations became useful as they forced Carter to take a creative stance. For example, to incorporate a song, Carter had to insert the whole audio file into the video, and then modulate the sound of the file at different points throughout the video to allow the music to play when he needed it to, as opposed to being able to add the audio files to specific clips as a tool such as iMovie would allow one to do.

From Carter, one can pull away the idea that the challenges one faces with multimodal invention due to technological limitation, inexperience or misfortune can carry utility and as such be a positive component of the composition processes surrounding their use. For example, when I was adjusting to using certain file formats, or switching between different editions of windows around the time of XP and Vista, I occasionally encountered situations in which pieces of my text would have been wiped out due to incompatibility issues, forcing me to re-type the missing components. In doing so, however, I would consider what I was re-typing more strongly, editing my words as I went. In this sense, faulty file formats, in a similar manner to Carter’s impermanence of files on the iPad, aided me in my writing process by allowing me to reconsider what was missing and what would need to replace it.

While I garnered something useful in regards to Arroyo and Carter’s videos, their works also made me consider the counterpoint. In some regards, these limitations, be they generated by swiping or by attempting to compose a video on a tool that was not well designed to be conducive to the composition are truly and really just limitations. There are just as many cases where these limitations have been wholly detrimental to my position. For example, when attempting to format files to import data into the programming language R, features of the spreadsheet program and features of R in relation to how it reads and interprets a file can force me to reformat or retype a particular file to deal with some strange problem. In this case, there is no utility present in the instability; it is purely problematic.

With this in mind, I point in regards to Arroyo that the idea of the swipe replacing the pencil could very well be plausible, but one must also consider the fact that at this point, the limitations to certain tactile processing software makes it less useful than pure writing, such as the awkward nature of hardware that allows one to use a touchscreen to “write” in a digital space, where problems can be encountered due to lack of feedback and features of the sensor technology.

In regards to Carter, The limitations he faced and the very idea that his daughter could inadvertently delete his entire project have some appeal in regards to understanding the way that digital composition affects an author’s creative process, but at the same time, using superior technology that can specifically facilitate the needs of the text one wants to create in totality still has a definite use that, in my opinion, outweighs the benefits of the inferior technology.

All in all, Arroyo and Carter have, together, nicely demonstrated the dimensional depth one has to explore when trying to understand “digital composition”; there is nuance in both their videos that makes the narrative something more than understanding the way that the keyboard may be replacing the pencil, or the way that the video is replacing the textbook.

 

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