This week’s readings and topics focused on Writing and Subjectivity, the construction of the self through digital writing as well as how what digital medium used can shape and structure the kinds of writing we do. I found many of Matthew Kirschenbaum’s comments interesting—particularly about how what medium or processor used can shape what/how a writer writes. Kirschenbaum cites Christina Haas, a composition researcher, who noted that “screen size and other aspects and other aspects of the graphical interface had a measurable impact on… an author’s ‘sense of text’, his or her ability to conceive of it as a whole…which in turn had implications for how the writer approached the task of revision” (Kirschenbaum 11). This particular finding stood out to me as I can personally relate to it—in fact I took issue with it while working with and creating my own WordPress site. Unlike the social media I am used to, tumblr and Facebook, whose writing spaces comprise a narrow width of the screen, the WordPress theme I have been trying to work with has a wide text width. The allotted horizontal space on screen for text is actually even larger than I can tell while editing the theme.
Text width that exceeds a certain length of the screen, most likely anything beyond the width of ‘pages’ in Word documents, is oddly difficult for me to read (on the flipside, the excessively narrow columns of scientific journals is literal hell on my eyes). I’ve taken to using to using a Chrome extension called “Readability” to transform difficult (hyper)text into more readily digested material. Reading has been less discussed as the class is supposed to focus on writing. It seems almost well accepted, obvious, that how the page looks affects how we read. But knowing that reading is a crucial part of the editing process, how then can the format of a program not affect how we write and rewrite?
As Kirschenbaum explored more word processors, I began to get a sense of the vast variety of word processors out there–and the horrifying task of editing a larger piece of work, say a Game of Thrones kind of length, on any program/medium. Having been writing and reading texts produced using some computer component for most of my life, it seems almost incomprehensible now that novels like War and Peace were written and copied by hand in their first manuscripts. Even with a computer, how can something so large be edited as a whole?
Evaluative comments on hands on work : I am assuming we are supposed to talk about the demos and programs encountered of the week? I found this week’s demo on Wikipedia very useful! I had no idea the Community Portal existed and that I could edit without making an account. It’s quite exciting to think lil o’ me could contribute and actually change things within the globally known and used website known as Wikipedia.
Kirschenbaum, Matthew. Track Changes: A Literary History of Word Processing. N.p.: Forthcoming Havard UP, 2016. Print (forthcoming).