Reading Response 9: Brice and Qualitative Data

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The most notable aspect of Colleen Brice’s critique of qualitative researching techniques was the sheer depth that the qualitative research methods exhibited. With little formal training in usage of qualitative data, I was not entirely familiar with the coding concept that sat in the heart of Brice’s piece, and just as well I have no experience in L2 language studies. Because of this, much of the information Brice presented was fairly new to me.

Though I haven’t had much interaction with the concepts Brice is treating, which is sensible, considering her critique would only really be useful and interesting to researchers who plan to utilize or analyze qualitative data and as such didn’t really need to explain much- it was a reasonable expectation the general audience would understand her terminology and logic,  I can see how her critique would be beneficial. The coding method’s usefulness is derived from a perceived need to categorize different aspects of qualitative data to examine connections and/or patterns to interpret meaning with respect to the investigation or experiment as a whole.

The necessity of this process places a great deal of responsibility on the researcher to both provide a good methodology of codification, and to prove that this methodology is valid. This was the most striking element of Brice’s piece- the latter half in which she went out to prove the reliability and validity of her coding methodology. It seems as though Brice and researchers who were trained like her came from a semi-rigid background that parallels to the rigidity of quantitative researchers. This is an odd concept, considering that qualitative data and its interpretations are inherently creative; there’s no hard and true way to say what data means what, unlike quantitative data.

Brice provided credence to her claims through illustration of how her experience in interacting with her subjects would lead to different interpretations on how a piece of datum should be coded. The thing that Brice left me with is modes of qualitative data collection, categorization and analysis can be as creative as the elements the data are being pulled from.

In that respect, I feel that the best way to approach data collection for my research is to a sequential method, collecting qualitative data from my subjects, and then using this qualitative data to influence and explain the quantitative data. Considering that I’m working in a team of 3, with a total of 50 subjects, work division can be organized via Google’s cloud-based programs such as docs, spreadsheets and forms for analysis, quantitative collection and qualitative collection specifically. All the data needs to move through all 3 members of the team, and these programs would facilitate interaction between the researchers, and between the researchers and the subjects in the most efficient manner.

Devising a method of reading and coding qualitative data is simple: the data will be collected in a google forms document that is accessible by all 3 members of the team, with all relevant information organized by name of the participant. This should allow all 3 members to read the data individually, which incorporates an evaluatory aspect to the pre-defined research methodology as a whole. In terms of writing and interpreting the categorized qualitative data, this should be done in direct respect to how it influences the quantitative data, and as such, can be presented in an almost pair-wise fashion. The specifics of this will not be clear until tangible data is present, and as such, the actual methods of dealing with the data will most definitely be subject to change.

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Reading Response 8: Language and Instant Messaging

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“Young People’s Everyday Literacies: The Language Features of Instant Messaging” approached something that both at the time of publishing and even now, is an issue in writing studies concepts as seen by the general public: change. Haas, Takayoshi and their compatroits made inroads into one of the many worlds populated by the next generation, and made off on a treasure cruise, displaying wealth in knowledge. Their analysis of the text corpus levels of depth and complexities that surrounded instant-messaging as a communicative medium, and by extension the written word itself. As evidenced by quotation from Crispin Thurlow, IM and similar text-based communications such as SMS, are not necessarily the harbingers of the death of intelligent language construction. Haas and Takayoshi illustrate the fact the conventions they discovered within their sample of messages is more likely an act of evolution, rather than destruction. The conventions they’d found comprised not only efficiency and simplicity such as with letter removal or replacement (wut vs what and b4 vs. before), but also attempts to convey more complex elements. For example, the addition of several letters, or the usage of “eye dialect” helped to convey emotion or intent behind the word.

It harkens back to the old adage: “There’s no sarcasm on the internet; no one can type it.”

I imagine that, factoring in the 5-6 year period between data collection in2008-2009, publishing in 2011 and the writing of this blog in 2014, there hasn’t been a great deal of change in how the 15 features are present and are created. To answer this question, one would specifically need to know what is considered an “IM”; it has many similar tenants to an SMS message, for example, but production of the texts can be reasonably different. An IM could be created via Facebook’s messenger on laptop, while an SMS message is crafted via an android phone; different tools for writing implies different results. Perhaps what one may wish to consider is how these tenants and features of messaging differ across multiple digital mediums?

Something else worth considering is that in 2009, typically speaking, there wasn’t as much word and sentence completion software. This implies that now, there may be a shift towards the language features that add text, rather than remove it. The convenience of being able to craft a full word from a few letters may remove a bit of the need for some of the shortenings. This may make their presence far more scarce and even facilitate the utilization of things such as emoticons (which are also likely easier to facilitate in certain digital features such as IRC or the Facebook messenger, as compared to in the first decade of the 2000’s.) or slang terms.

To that extent, it may be possible that because these features of IM have become so ubiquitous, the newer tools are designed to facilitate them, which implies directionality in the movement of language and communication in a digital environment.

In terms of questions I’ll restate the fact that I’d like to know specifically what program(s) were being to generate the “IMs”, and how this program may have influenced the creation of the messages.  Haas and Takayoshi also begin developing on how the social implications of their sample may have influenced the nature of the findings, but don’t really address how the data reflects these differences. Was there any implication of effect? If so, how were the societal divisions of the samples impactful, and what does this suggest?

The one major change I think I’d like to see in a study of this nature would be to introduce a professional linguist. Haas and Takayoshi mentioned utilizing linguistic techniques without having the formal training, and as such, it’d be pertinent to have a proper analysis conducted by one who is experienced in that field, which could then lead into further interpretations of the results of the study, such as implications on how the textual formation of language has influenced or has been influenced by verbal formations- slang being a major point of evidence in this case. To what extent was slang a function of IM versus a common idea used verbally that naturally translated to the textual medium?

Reading Response 7: A Response to the Arguments and Practices of Anne Aronson

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Anne Aronson’s “Composing in a Material World: Women Writing in Space and Time” certainly posed an interesting point into the nature of how varieties of space (temporal, physical and figurative) may influence adult women writers. What was really worth noting were the ideas of other writers whose arguments she had framed hers against, namely that of Ursula Le Guin, who herself had built off of Virginia Woolf. This response will attempt to treat both criticism of Aronson’s ideas, comment upon methodology, and pose relevant questions so as to act as an extension of the discourse Aronson is attempting to engage in with her ideas.

In a resolving statement, Aronson appears to identify the fact that many of her subjects suffered from extreme constraints in their writing practices because of their obligations in life. She uses this idea to counteract Le Guin’s point that all that was needed to write was the materials and the control of your own ideas. I feel that this focus on materiality is certainly a relevant topic in the nature of writing studies, as efficiency and maximization of time is a problem that any individual will have to deal with- professional writers and students especially. The main points of contention that should be brought up are addressed by the differences in interpretation of what is needed to function as a writer by both Aronson and Le Guin. The two individuals appear to revealing the nature of how societal and economic position can negatively impact the outcome (success, practice, capability) of becoming a writer. All of Aronson’s samples came from lower to middle class positions, and could be considered as representational of a “normal” state for these conditions, beyond the idea that all of the women Aronson used had managed to get back into academics, which some writers in even worse of situations may not capable of achieving. The question then is how much do these factors of livelihood influence the capabilities and limitations of these female writers? A comparative analysis pooling individuals who came from higher class backgrounds, as well as those from lower classes could perhaps make this clear and more certainly define how disparities in privileges can influence practice, beyond intrinsic capability.

Aronson’s methodology was certainly interesting. Her usage of a small sub-sample of populations of adult students in college settings could perhaps have been more clearly defined, but despite this, her ability to utilize qualitative data and extend its presence to her argument was exemplary. Her practice here illustrates how qualitative data can be utilized, especially in conjunction with quantitative. For the intent and purpose of my own personal investigation, the actual resultant numbers derived from experimental units will certainly be useful. Correlating these numbers with descriptions of the how the subjects felt in each treatment can be used to give the data a non-binary purpose. Another noteworthy factor that should be kept in mind is that qualitative analysis lends itself well to lower sample sizes, while quantitative analysis lends itself to higher sample sizes, revealing internal conflicts with the practice of evaluation and data collection overall.

Finally, I wonder how much has changed since 1999 when Aronson has published this study. In addition to general quality of life improvements, technology has become more prolific across many parts of society. This has facilitated, among other the things, ease of writing for a greater amount of individuals. I wonder then, with the nature of the digital medium as a “newer” frontier, if the nature of space and materiality for all writers of various conditions has improved, or perhaps even worsened. Conducting a similar experiment in today’s world may perhaps yield relevantly different results, opening the field of discussion into what has changed over this near-decade and a half.

Reading Response 6(.5): Social Media Proliferation

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My first and most burning question brought forth due to Standage’s text is to what extent did caffeine addictions drive the development of the coffeehouse as a social hotbed? And even more important than that, would the coffeehouse have existed if there were other accessible supplies of caffeine?

The importance of Standage’s 6th and 11th chapters comes as they present themselves to a modernized audience who has clear understandings of what they believe “social media” is and how it relates to the internet they know and understand.

Some people don’t have a respect for history and socio-technological development, and those people are not going to understand why their beloved Facebook and Twitter aren’t as revolutionary as they may seem.

 

To investigate this, I shall forego an in-depth analysis of both chapters in order to synthesis information derived from both, in order to explore Standage’s point.

Both chapters seem to discuss to the expansion of “social media” in some form. This consists of some sort of system of convention that has aided in communication and the dissemination of knowledge to the world. The coffeehouse, ARPANET, Facebook and the like were merely means of aiding in communication, which had been done by humans for as long as the species had existed.

What they did do is change who could speak with whom and how much like printing had done during the time of Martin Luther. The coffeehouse became a space for free and uninterrupted transmission of ideas by those who were involved within whatever social or academic circle happened to be there at the time. Its presence was important, and coffeehouse discussions created fire-pits of knowledge, intrigue and information that could not transmit itself near quickly enough in the 17th  century to be as impacting as it was.

The point to be made, however, is that the coffeehouse in and of itself was not a tool or a means for the development of social media or communication; it was a happy victim of circumstance.  The coffeehouses created accessible environments by being comfortable enough and by providing a product that could increase the rapidity of mental processes. This placed it squarely against the tavern or the pub, which did quite the opposite. The environment in and of itself was highly suitable for any to come and speak their mind, be they fool or genius.

And that interesting parallel leads us to chapter 11, in which we see how major developments in internet technologies had been spurred by the need to communicate. This communication, however, was between very specific groups of academics; it was the entire reason that the www. that people of the digital age known so well exists.

What Standage brings forth in both chapters 6 and 11 goes somewhat beyond his primary point. With both the coffeehouse, and developments such as the internet, there is a visible tension between belief in knowledge control- dictation of knowledge rather than democratization. Though the coffeehouse may have been free and open, one still had to prove themselves credible. More so than that, a space that could potentially provide knowledge- and criticism of the norm- proved dangerous as the English crown had first anticipated.

The tension that exists in the internet today is even more palpable. There are both attempts to credit and discredit information that may not objectively deserve such treatment, and attempts to outrightly control how information spreads. Actions such as these actively undermine the beneficial roles of such a tool as the internet.

What we can see with Standage goes beyond a history lesson, beyond a display of human progress. His piece illustrates one key thing that has echoed through all the chapters I’ve been exposed to. Technologically, human advancement in the fields of communication has progressed remarkably over the past several centuries. However, many facets of communications: the ethics, the credibility, the manipulation of truth, have remained as constants within iterations.

The next, more interesting discussion is how these constants should be changed, if change is necessary- or possible- at all.

Reading Response 5: Memes? Challenge Accepted.

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Limor Shifman: may the Motivational-Wolf-Manatee be with you.

Shifman’s account on memes in digital culture seeks to contribute to the nature of the discussion in scholarly communications studies from the perspectives of the meme and what the presence of the meme in human cultures may suggest for said scholars of communication. The discourse on the nature of memes, especially in the digital environments of internet messageboards, forums and content comments, is disparate. The academic side and the popular side, as Shifman puts it, argue similar topics from two totally different perspectives but don’t communicate with one another. As a result of creating this piece, Shifman hopes to bridge the gap and stimulating the discourse.

The initial idea presented by Shifman is that the meme, as defined by biologist Richard Dawkins in 1976, is not the same as the meme that Shifman himself defines. The original definition of meme is along the lines of an idea, behavior or style that transmits itself from person to person within a specific culture. Shifman’s definition develops on the one Dawkins made within the context of the subject at hand- internet memes.

Within chapter 4, Shifman sets out to come up with his own definition that runs parallel to Dawkins’. Shifman seems to drop the biological allusions and connotations Dawkins held when she established the term. In addition to being an idea or phenomena that spreads from person to person, the idea of a meme must be assessed by it’s “memetic dimensions”, which consist of the aspects of the meme that facilitate imitation and transmission. In addition, the meme itself is not just one unit, but several units of content that share common characteristic, which comprise the meme itself. Shifman uses this system of definition for two main reasons. Firstly, his idea of a meme is framed specifically in the context of the digital meme, such as Korean rapper’s popular song “Gangham Style”, which Shifman argues is memetic not just because it’s popular, humorous and unique, but because it invites imitation, creativity and derivation, all of which would make up the meme as a whole. Secondly, it allows the audience to begin to differentiate what a digital meme is from that of viral content.

 

The video above illustrates “viral content” as would be described by Shifman. Shifman dedicates a great deal of time in chapters 5 and 6 differentiating from memetic content and viral content. The purposes of the discussion that’ll take place shortly, these differences will be generalized. The general difference is that viral content, much like the Dawkins’ definition, is “one unit”. In our example, the single unit is the video itself. In comparison to memetic content such as gangham style’s proliferation among many physical and digital cultures, the latter-case has multiple units that were derived directly from the initiating event (Shifman specifically classifies these as “Founder-Based Memes”, which differ from both viral content and “Egalitarian Memes” that were meant to imitated.)

An important thing to understand is that memetic content is intended to co-opted, imitated, modified and developed. A viral video doesn’t have to or need to invite replication (which, in the case of the first example, is likely a benefit to the continued reproductive fitness of the species). A viral video gains its popularity due to the invocation of a strong emotion, such as humour or joy. However, both viral and memetic content exist on a gradient, as a viral video could easily become memetic. Memetic content needs to be engaging and entertaining enough to make people want to emulate them, on top of simply liking the initial concept. It must be simple enough to replicate with ease, but complex enough to have room for development. The nature of the “Harlem Shake” meme is a perfect example.

In Shifman’s 7th chapter, he goes about categorizing different memes by genre, and noting the specific qualities of each genre. These genres are fairly simplistic and are not at all all-encompassing, but provide an adequate scope for identify and understanding the phenomena of the internet meme. Shifman’s categories include: Reaction photoshops, flash mobs, photo fads, “LOLcats”, Lipsyncs, misheard lyrics, recut trailers, stock character macros and “Rage Comics”. All of these meme genres are fairly prolific and easily identifiable within the annals of the internet.

In an effort to further Shifman’s cause and stimulate the discourse on the nature of the digital meme, I pose two videos that provide interesting perspectives on the system. The first video provides a satiric take on what we understand about memes and internet culture, which can be framed from Shifman’s for a different outlook:

http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/loadingreadyrun/6864-Harlem-Shake

Conversely, here is a companion video to the original viral video mentioned earlier. The difference between viral content and memetic content is important not only because of how they’re different, but also how they influence the cultures the that they’re present within. What happens when you can engineer the spontaneity and uniqueness that causes viral videos to come and fade away? Something Shifman doesn’t mention specifically in the chapters mentioned in the text is how the nature of memes imply that they’re semi-random occurrences that happen to become big, influential and popular due to random efforts. Yes, if a celebrity creates viral content, it’ll likely become popular due to their fanbase, but the sheer, lasting impact a meme, such as the reliable Trollface, can have can not be attributed to one person, or even a group of people, but the community as a whole. This gets as the heart of two important questions: Why are viral videos appealing?  And in that same vein, why are memes such a major part of digital culture?

Reading Response 4: Haas Chapters 4 and 5, and Personal Writing Research

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Christina Haas’ Writing Technologies text appeared the come into its own in chapters 4 and 5. Haas, having  explained the theory, mindset and ideology of writing studies in her previous chapters allows her to move into a greater deal of empirical analysis. Specifically, chapter 4 deals with effects technologies may have had on a writer’s process, while chapter 5 focused more upon the notion of materiality as represented through the notion of text sense- the literal and figurative feeling that the text conveys towards its writer as it is being written.

A large criticism leveled against Haas is the element of time. The validity of her research aside, because she analyzed the nature of writing and digital technology in 1996, her studies are outdated as there have been numerous developments to technology itself, the teaching and societal incorporation of both writing and technology, and in writers themselves as well over the course of 18 years. Because she could have no way of predicting the massive changes to her field of study, her work is missing element of relevance.

This criticism is fairly disingenuous as it has a certain implication that any source that could be considered “old” isn’t necessarily useful, which is often not the case. A perfect analogy would be a comparison of Haas’ piece to a historical text written in the 1950’s. Interpretations of events would change around the late 40’s and 50’s because they were “current”, and their implications would not have been understood by scholars who were writing at the time. However, their sources still have a certain usefulness because they can illustrate to a reader what was understood at the time, which can then be used by said reader in their timeframe to better understand what has changed. This is why Haas still holds relevance.

Furthermore, her data analysis in itself still seems like it could be useful. In general, Haas managed use statistical analysis to conclude that writing on via a word-processing unit had relevant differences to writing on paper- a sentiment that is still echoed today.

As towards Haas experiments and analyses themselves, they seemed valid, even though there is a very real difficulty in quantifying something as qualitative as writing practices in such a way that statistical tests of significance can be used to provide credence to an alternative hypothesis, which in the specific case of Haas writing process experiment, was the idea that were was a significant difference between processes of digital writing and tactile writing.

As such, I feel that expanded upon ideas presented by Haas- the ideas of materiality and how it can be conveyed differently depending on the medium, in the modern day would be a good launching point for personal investigation into writing practices. One big idea is that with the ascendancy of digital technology and its incorporation into both culture and writing environments, the changes and differences Haas may have observed could have dulled; digital media is commonplace, and as such, human society may have adapted.

Specifics of how this study could be conducted would have to depend upon a number of factors, the primary of which can be represented as the following question: “How does one quantify ‘difference’? Such a research question is wide and far too expansive for one individual, and as such, I would need to hone in on a specific difference.

In response to this necessity for specificity, I’d argue that one of the more open fields that’d like a bit of development consists of the idea of memorization. There have been numerous cursory studies illustrating the idea that tactile writing is better for memory as compared to writing via digital means. While this idea still proves to be a bit too massive, the exact details of an experiment can be refined and redefined in due time.

Reading Response 3: Interactions between Digital Word Processing Mechanisms and the Writing Process

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The discourse on writing and digital media is one that has spanned levels of time, space, discipline and experience. Comparing the nature of Christina Haas’ 3rd chapter of Writing Technologies pertaining to on-line reading and the piece written by Derek Van Ittersum and Kory Lawson Ching, Composing Text / Shaping Process: How Digital Environments Mediate Writing Activity, is wonderful exemplification of this fact.

The two texts are separated not only in focus and theme, but also by time. The nature of temporal progression and how it’s influenced the discussion is highly pertinent, as changes in technologies, interpretations of technologies, and development of new technologies will invariably change the nature of the discussion itself.

The case in point is that within Haas’ piece, Haas choices to focus on the nature of the computer’s more negative impacts on the processes of reading on-line for writers. She explicitly does this to provide contrast for the “visionary” or “celebratory” (p. 52) viewpoints that possess an overtly positive connotation, distorting one’s ability to properly conduct to the conversation; both the positive and the negative must be present. Also worth noting is the fact that the more positive connotations that Haas chooses to not focus on were essentially correct, in terms of how the computer could influence writing. In 2014, result-oriented views must be avoided so as to properly treat Haas claims with the validity that must be conferred to one, who in 1996, could not predict the meteoric impact computers and derivative technologies would have on writing from a rhetorical, cultural and technological standing.

Haas’ primary investigation found that while writing was easily done via the assistance of word processing units, the systems still had a detrimental affect on the writing process. Haas highlights 4 factors that are problematic with the 20th century’s word processing systems: formatting, proofreading, reorganizing and reading for a sense of the text (p.57-59). These factors were consistently problematic among subjects Haas contacted for her study, suggesting that this was a common, rather than specific problem.

At this point, word processing technology has developed and over come many of the problems that the technology previously had. And that’s the point- because the technology has made developments that were designed to rectify negative impacts, scholars of writing must think critically of the notion of instrumentalism.

It’s very easy to assume that writing is always just writing. It is entirely possible to transmit the same textual information in dirt, in clay, on vellum, or paper, or via a computer while having the textual information retain the same meaning across all mediums, but that notion makes a the dangerous mistake of assuming that the actual writing medium does not influence the writer, and therefore the writer itself. Van Ittersum and Lawson Ching illustrate this fact well.

A key idea that the webtext makes clear can be illustrated by the following quote: “Software interfaces can also attempt to tune consciousness in writing activity” (Ittersum and Lawson Ching). The core idea of their text is that the actual environment of the word processing program is going to influence the writer in different ways and as such is going to have some type of distinct impact of the writing process in and of itself. They illustrate this both by focusing on specific systems (the “distraction-free model” and the “Markdown model”) as well as specific examples of writers whom altered their digital environment to better suit their needs, such as the anecdote in the introduction of the writer who used two keyboards operated by hands and feet to alleviate stress in the wrists.

For the intents and purposes of the discourse that this blog’s author wished to pursue, information pulled from the webtext were taken in an entirely different direction. The authors of the text mentioned Microsoft Word in their introduction, and how it’s dominance as a word processing unit diluted the actual discourse of writing in the digital age, as compared to what the discourse had been in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The authors of the webtext also managed to illustrate the variety of word processors available and how they created different environments for different writers.

Many writers, especially those who are less technologically savvy, may never see those other options and are, in a sense, limiting their writing environment and their writing process overall.

Microsoft managed to form a semi-monopoly of processing units prior to later parts of the early 21st century, and in turn, managed to push microsoft as the go-to work tool. Many “writers” would not call themselves such; writing is simply a part of their daily lives and they must deal with that. As such, convenience, efficiency and speed or going to be valued. Microsoft word is easy to access, easy to use and is highly familiar. Because of this, many writers may not even be aware that their horizons may be unknowingly narrowed.

Despite the dominance of Word, the recent surge of competition in the form of programs such as Google Documents are bringing the nature of word processing units and how they affect writing back onto the table of discussion as Ittersum and Lawson Ching manage to put forth through their discourse on alternative systems.

This overarching movement towards opening the discussion of writing and digital media the basis for the Personal Investigation being conducted by the author of this blog. The main resultant of personal observation lines up with the notions brought forth by scholars like Haas, Ittersum and Lawson. The method of writing is going to obviously alter the writing process, if only subtly in some cases. But even in the most subtle of cases, this alteration brought about the simple decision of how to actually write, be it with pen or keyboard, is going to invariably influence not only the text itself, but the state of the writer, which in turns modifies the nature of the text. It’s part of an explanation of why the newer digital media have not out-moded non-digital writing, and why both can coexist.

What lies in the space between coexistance- specifically how different our writing becomes with the flourish of a pen versus a masterful keystroke, is the space that is ripe for exploration. And what a wonderful journey it will be.

Reading Response 2: A Reflection on Writing Technologies and Personal Writing

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A whirlwind of textual discourse can be a difficult thing to properly address. All sides, all views, need to be taken into account. Every voice needs to be given equal time to speak their peace. Afterwards, notions need to be criticized, evaluated, synthesized, until a conclusion that’s taken something from everyone has been reached.

That’s not what I plan to do here. I won’t be directly critiquing and analyzing the work of Christina Haas and Dennis Baron in their respective works, Writing Technology and A Better Pencil: Readers, Writers, and the Digital Revolution. That’s a battle for another day, and the battle has only just begun.

Instead, I simply wish to comment upon the ideas brought up by both Haas and Baron with respect to a log of that tracked 3 days of my writing, and an activity in which I attempted mundane tasks via a variety of writing media, including clay, a typewriter, and a smartphone.

With that, it’s best to start off with Haas. Haas seems to be grasping a grander picture than Baron. Her “Technology Question” seeks to trace the changes writing as a technology in and of itself has made on humans, as well as how other technologies have influenced writing, and therefore, the human mind and human culture.  Her piece seems to be more comprised of academia than Baron’s, and is far more “theoretical” and conjecture based. Considering that Haas wrote Writing Technologies in the late 20th century, it’s clear that the generally mundane nature of then-modern computing technology had not yet deeply influenced the nature of writing overall.

Baron’s piece has a far more modern, and personal, approach to the perspective on writing. The most notable example of this came from his decision to expose modern writers to ancient forms, in which his students were asked to transcribe a series of Latin phrases onto clay, which they themselves prepared to inscribe upon. This recount of the unity of the ancient and the modern was also textured with brief historical accounts into the nature of many writing tools, from clay to papyrus to type-writers to now-disused word processing programs.

Both Baron and Haas have ventured to understanding writing as a human invention, and how that invention has caused humans overall to develop. The most wonderful thing about their intent is that the influences of what they’re trying to see can be seen in even the most mundane of task; writing is still writing, but its subtle changes over the course of human history have done much for the development of humans as a species.

An activity that mirrors Baron’s experiment brings this subtlety to light. I was tasked to transcribe a Latin paragraph, write directions to my domicile and interpret Hamlet’s famous soliloquy on a variety of writing tools: a clay tablet, a brush with acrylic paint simulating a quill pen, a typewriter, a smartphone and a tablet. The task was the same every time, the only difference being the tool. Despite this, the level of difficulty, quality of writing and time taken varied greatly. This seemingly obvious statement returns to the subtlety that Baron and Haas investigated; writing as a technology cannot be properly understood without understanding its interactions with other technologies.

The key trend between each mode of writing was convenience. The more modern technologies proved to be easier to manage, had greater room for mistakes to be made and could be used to transmit more information over in less time. For me, the technology itself dictated how much I could write, how closely I needed to pay attention to my text and how I worded my phrases.

The general ease of the pen and paper, and the warm familiarity of a keyboard free the modern user from the shackles of the predecessor. Their minds may wander further, and who knows what they may bring back?

At the time of the completion of this blog, I also move closer to completing the tracking of my personal writing for a 3-day period. I’ve found that the reflective nature of the task has given me greater insights into my own processes, and what writing means to my being.

All in all, writing is the commitment of thought to the page. The idea to the screen. The spirit to world. As both Baron and Haas illustrate, it’s one of the most important things for this world, and taken for granted more than it needs to be.

To understanding one’s writing is an important step to enlightening the mind.

It’s a big leap into understanding who, what, how and why you are.

 

Reading Response One- The Writing Process

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When treating the question of writing, I immediately feel that one should be highly considerate of the response. Writing is a tool that influences humanity in both powerfully positive and negative ways. The blade or the bullet can strike down one man, but the pen can condemn entire cultures- entire worlds- to an unfortunate doom.

In that same vein, that same “one” who pays respects to the written word may find it strange how distorted my writing processes may seem from time to time.

But why?

I write not out of necessity, but out of pleasure. Committing thought, memory and idea to text for the sake of posterity is a highly enjoyable experience. I’ve found writing to be an inevitability, albeit a welcome one.

Writing is a rather spontaneous experience for me, more so for some pieces than others. Any preparations I perform are contributed solely to more academic pieces in which I need to have the information I’ve derived from elsewhere sorted into a format by which I can easily pull what I need from others into my work. I follow no ritual, no tradition. I don’t have a “writing space” or favorite pen. The time, place, and tools I seek out are all for convenience and for the sake of offering the best pieces of writing I can to those who feel the need to read them.

My process is free-form, it changes, develops and evolves to suit my needs. Pen, pencil or keyboard are all valid and all offer differing experiences, and as such I’ll commit to using them all.

If I were to write a thesis paper or dissertation, I’d  take up the computer more readily than paper, simply because such a serious piece needs to be written in an efficient and appropriate manner. I can simply type faster than I can write, which gives me more time to think, to sort ideas, to challenge what I know and enhance the quality of the piece.

Now, what would happen were I take up a work that was a result of an unfettered, creative mindset? Be it poem or prose, the ideas that birth the stories can come at any time that thought should be occur- which should be every waking hour. In those cases, I’ll take up whatever space and whatever tool is at hand. My own comfort or concerns are secondary to the need to write.

In short, I’ll write what needs to be written as I must, whenever and wherever needs to be written. The niceties of a clean and quiet room or a secluded, rolling grassland. The comfort of my personal computer and journals and time itself. The spark of inspiration from a heated debate or a magnificent display of passionate oration. All of these are wonderful things, but are merely luxuries. They all help a great deal, but I can work without, and I won’t let the lack of such hinder my goals as they relate to writing.

The pursuit of knowledge.