Sunday, April 1, 2012

Student reflections on typewriting (V)

Thoughts from a student who had some difficulties with the typing:

     Despite the appearance of my typewritten product, I have used a typewriter before, albeit an electric one of my parents. I had alignment troubles on the electric, but not nearly as bad as with these two typewriters (Royal and Webster). I don’t how or why this happened, as I am not familiar with the mechanics of the typewriter. However, I think I exemplify my preference of handwriting to the medium of the typewriter because the form of my typewritten document is contrary to its function.
     What I am getting harkens back to Kittler and his notion of human beings being unable to control the media and media influencing and determining our understanding of the world as well as our consciousness of it. The innovation of a typewriter as a machine implies its capability of inner motion and something we don’t fully understand because it is autonomous and doesn’t necessarily require human beings to act upon it in order for it to act. This is shown in my typewritten summary when the lines run together and overlap. The typewriter was invented to standardize handwriting in order to avoid misinterpretation in the workplace. This in turn suppressed individuality, or the tendency for idiosyncrasies of each person to come out when the word was written. Individuality or personality is an external manifestation of how one’s mind works.
     With the typewriter, there is an element of depersonalization as well as a proposed paradigm of thinking that I don’t believe accurately reflects how the brain works. All the aspects of handwriting (e.g. how close the lines/words/letters are together, how the different letters are made, scratch outs, etc.) say something about the thought process of the person doing the handwriting. The birth of the typewriter and its intended purpose has influenced people to deem the running together of lines written by the typewriter to be a mistake and start over on a new page as it is more open to a misreading. In this way, I believe that the typewriter is overall less true to the inner workings human brain than handwriting. I think the lines blurring together is symbolic of how the brain makes associations and moves from thought to thought. This is why I kept the way it is. Despite my somewhat frustrating experience, I think that my non-conventional use of the typewriter is even more reflective of brain mechanics, unlike a conventional acceptance and experience of one.


  1. Well written and thought provoking. As the student wrote of depersonalization, I believe this to be somewhat true since one's handwriting is a direct reflection of the person holding the pen, but with the availablility of all the different typewriters at such affordable prices we can all be quite personal in our choice of a favourite typer, ribbon and stationary.

    Seems you have a great class this term.

  2. Best one yet. Not at all like my own experience but then this was written by a person with a much better relationship with handwriting than I have.

  3. Spot on. Handwriting does betray some human emotion which mechanical type emphatically denies. So how strange that this brink-of-extinct technology arouses such fervour amongst its devotees. Weak handwriting (and I should know) is beefed-up to credible prose when typed. The confident uniformity of mechanically-crafted characters endows text with an authority borrowed from the print-published books and journals. A kind of deceit?

  4. Sure, writing by hand is different, and arguably more personal, than typewriting. But all writing, of any sort, is fallen.

    Here's Borges, pointing out the futility of language--whether written by hand, typewritten, or even spoken--in The Aleph:

    "Really, what I want to do is impossible, for any listing of an endless series is doomed to be infinitesimal. In that single gigantic instant I saw millions of acts both delightful and awful; not one of them occupied the same point in space, without overlapping or transparency. What my eyes beheld was simultaneous, but what I shall now write down will be successive, because language is successive."

    And here's Cortazar, further blowing our minds, and even mentioning his typewriter, in the first two paragraphs of Blow-Up:

    "It'll never be known how this has to be told, in the first person or in the second, using the third person plural or continually inventing modes that will serve for nothing. If one might say: I will see the moon rose, or: we hurt me at the back of my eyes, and especially: you the blonde woman was the clouds that race before my your his our yours their faces. What the hell.

    Seated ready to tell it, if one might go to drink a bock over there, and the typewriter continue by itself (because I use the machine), that would be perfection. And that's not just a manner of speaking. Perfection, yes, because here is the aperture which must be counted also as a machine (of another sort, a Contax 1.1.2) and it is possible that one machine may know more about another machine than I, you, she--the blonde--and the clouds. But I have the dumb luck to know that if I go this Remington will sit turned to stone on top of the table with the air of being twice as quiet that mobile things have when they are not moving. So, I have to write. One of us all has to write, if this is going to get told. Better that it be me who am dead, for I'm less compromised than the rest; I who see only the clouds and can think without being distracted, write without being distracted (there goes another, with a grey edge) and remember without being distracted, I who am dead (and I'm alive, I'm not trying to fool anybody, you'll see when we get to the moment, because I have to begin some way and I've begun with this period, the last one back, the one at the beginning, which in the end is the best of the periods when you want to tell something.)"


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  6. It seems to me that writing on a computer is more impersonal than writing on a typewriter.

    On a typewriter, the fumbling, groping mind can be exposed for all to see, in the form of poor syntax, incomplete thoughts and typographical errors. Isn't that pretty personal?