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In the Event of a Variable Text

Critical Writing
Publication Type: 
Language: 
Year: 
2017
Page Numbers: 
89-114
Journal volume and issue: 
23.1.
Record Status: 
Tags: 
Abstract (in English): 

Walter J Ong argues: ‘The spoken word is always an event, a movement in time, completely lacking in the thing-like repose of the written or printed word’. Digital writing has given rise to a new regime of enunciation in which written words refuse repose. This essay argues that although spoken, written and printed words operate within radically different temporal planes, spoken words also have thing-like properties and written and printed words also move through time. Digital writing has given rise to a new regime of signification unforeseen by Ong in which written words refuse repose. Jay David Bolter argues that digital writing ‘challenges the logocentric notion that writing should be merely the servant of spoken language ... The writer and reader can create and examine structures on the computer screen that have no easy equivalent in speech’. N Katherine Hayles argues that, in digital media, the text ‘becomes a process, an event brought into existence when the program runs ... The [text] is ‘‘eventilized,’’ made more an event and less a discrete, self-contained object with clear boundaries in space and time’. Jean-Jacques Lecercle argues that language is a constructed system, constantly subject to change ... ‘We therefore need to conceive of language not as a stable, arrested system, but as a system of variations’. This essay draws upon a diverse corpus of literary, media and performance theory and practice to establish a critical framework for examining the performance of variable texts throughout the entire apparatus of hardware, software, networks, bodies and spaces within and through which they operate and propagate. This framework is applied to a number of examples of digital writing which incorporates variability, instability, transformation and change into the process of composition, resulting in texts which are both physical and digital, confusing and confound boundaries between speaking, writing and reading.

Pull Quotes: 

his essay will argue that although spoken, written, and printed words operate within radically different temporal planes, spoken words also have thing-like properties and written and printed words also move through time. In making this argument, this essay will draw upon performance writing methodology (Carpenter, 2015b; Fletcher, 2013; Hall, 2013). Performance writing takes a conceptually broad and overtly interdisciplinary approach to considering the performance of text in relation to a wide range of social, cultural, material, mediatic, and disciplinary contexts.

Digital writing has given rise to a regime of signification in which long-standing distinctions between spoken, written, and printed words have become blurred. No longer discreet entities, no longer easily quantifiable objects for study or for sale, digital literary texts demand a new critical approach to reading and writing.

Images: 
Jo  ̈ rg Piringer performing abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz at Machfeld Studio, Vienna, in 2010. Source: Photo by JR Carpenter.

Platforms referenced:

Title Developers Year initiated
JavaScript 1995

Publishers referenced:

Title Location
Performance Research
The Junket
Cambridge
United Kingdom
GB

Events referenced:

Titlesort descending Date Location
ELMCIP Conference on Remediating the Social 01.11.2012
Edinburgh
United Kingdom
GB
The permanent URL of this page: 
Record posted by: 
J. R. Carpenter