Seeing the screen: Research into visual and digital writing practices

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Book Chapter

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Department of Humanities


Responsibility for the visual aspects of printed pages belonged once to graphic designers: because our history of printing technologies and books (see chaps. 2, 3, and 4, this volume) has separated responsibilities in the production of pages, writers have used rhetorical and subject knowledge to produce and arrange words whereas designers have used knowledge about readability, aesthetics, and the technologies of the printing press to give those words visual shape. Though it has been possible for writers to have say in the look of their words (Mallarmé‘s Un Coup de Dés, 1998; Derrida’s Glas, 1990; Ronell’s The Telephone Book, 1991), with digitization, “graphics, moving images, sounds, shapes, spaces, and texts… become computable; that is, they comprise simply another set of computer data” (Manovich, 2001, p. 20); when photographs, video, animation, and sound become-in digital memory-equivalent to words, practices once limited to the arrangement and production of one mode can be tested with others, as when composition teachers include visual and aural along with verbal texts in their classes or when rhetorical analyses similarly include the visual.

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© 2008 by Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. Publisher’s version of record:

Publication Title

Handbook of Research on Writing: History, Society, School, Individual, Text