Posted by: soniahs | September 5, 2010

Exam reading: “Writing space”

I’ve probably read at least parts of “Writing Space,” by Jay David Bolter, in three different courses so far. It’s clearly been an influential book in the T&T field (though of course some authors love it, while others use it to argue against):

Summary: Bolter explores the ways in which digital media are changing traditional “writing spaces:” the material & virtual fields of writing that are determined by both technology and the ways it’s used. One important way this happens is through remediation: a new medium taking the place of an older one while borrowing its conventions. For Bolter, one of the reasons new media are adopted is that they bring a greater sense of immediacy, derived from either increased transparency of the medium (“looking through”) or increased hypermediacy (awareness of the medium; “looking at”). Bolter focuses on the ways that the Internet, particularly hypertext, remediate older technologies (e.g., linking is a rhetorical tool that allows associational (non-linear) expression; lack of closure; increased participation from reader). One key feature is the use of visuals in online writing that are not constrained by the text; visuals may replace text or serve as visual puns, and text may try to become as vivid as visuals (ekphrasis). If writing is a metaphor for thought (and writing systems for our sense of self), then “multilinear” hypertext may be more like the associational mind thinks and reflect our postmodern identity. Writing spatializes time (i.e., speech)- going from print to hypertext is in some ways like returning to conversational modes of oral dialogue.

Comments: Bolter suggests that the increased use if visuals is an attempt to get rid of arbitrary symbol systems (i.e., the alphabet) and return to picture writing. However, modern picture writing differs from preliterate picture writing in that more abstraction can be expressed (e.g., icons). Also discusses semiosis (movement from one sign to another via reference); to read is to interpret semiotic meaning in the difference between the signs (e.g., intertextuality, linking).

Links to: Hayles (hypertext literature); Ong (writing systems and thought)



  1. […] to: Bolter (decline of authority in online publishing); Liu (similar tone of justification for humanities […]


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