“Invent” your own writing technology assignment

One of the important assumptions of this class is that writing and literacy are technologies. This is sometimes tricky for us to think about nowadays since the basic technologies of writing and reading– 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 short project has two parts. First, write a 20 or so word “text” of any type and on any subject, using only writing tools and technologies “invented” by you, found in nature, around the house, etc. Second, write a brief essay– about 1500 words– that explains how you created the first part of this project and what the first part of the writing project exposed (or didn’t) for you about the relationship between the technological tools you use to write and what sort of text you end up producing. Make connections in your essay to the readings assigned for “Week 2: Writing as Technology.”

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 project with writing materials like paint, nail polish, white out, 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 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 (it is surprisingly easy to make both simple papers and inks out of “natural” materials, for example).
  • 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.)
  • To show your writing invention, bring it with you to class next week– or, if that proves to be impossible or just inconvenient, take a picture of it to share with the group. I’d also encourage you to include a picture of your invention as part of your essay.
  • 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 writing projects that cause some sort of permanent damage to property. This is supposed to be a fun writing project, not a hazardous one.
  • Be mindful of the fact that this is one of several SHORT writing projects in this class. Spend your time accordingly and be realistic about your project goals. Remember that the reason we’re doing this is to consciously explore the the technologies and materials we use to create texts; the goal is not to make great artistic masterpieces or to work yourself to death. It might be pretty cool to chisel your text into a piece of marble, but it seems to me the cost of the materials and the time it would take to “write” the text are too much for this project. Further, you should spend at least as much time (if not more) writing your brief explanation of how you went about creating your writing project as you spend creating the 20 or so word writing project itself.
  • You will write your essay with Google Docs and post a link to the appropriate assignment space on canvas.emich.edu