The Material Affordances of [spaces] Where Writing Happens

My asynch ENGL 202 students are submitting their final draft of their first major project today…well, this evening.

We’ve been working on it since Week 3. It started out as Journal Notes responding to articles and Ted Talks, writing that happened in individual spaces. Then it evolved in discussion posts, writing that happened in shared space. Then it merged into more rigorous structures and positions in drafts, writing that happened in formalized spaces.

So, I’m thinking about these different, asynchronous spaces, and I’d like to invite you to join me. Here’s one place my brain is this morning:

We make when we write. Our writing is thing-like. Ideas and voices become artifacts we can touch and pass around with others. Our material thoughts-on-surfaces gain a kind of gravity when we scatter them around the desk and post them online; they become magnets to more ideas, more voices, more structures…you know, the reading/thinking/collaboration/writing process. 

And so, of course, writing involves more than “the human brain and its internal processes” but also our “bodies, behaviors, spaces and tools” all of which are the “constitutive elements of [writing] activity.” 

Those quotes above are from Mathew Overstreet from a recent Computers and Composition article. Here’s another favorite passage:

…discursive forms (sentences, genres, etc.) are best conceived not “as abstractions, but as material vehicles” (Menary 629). As material vehicles, shared forms have generative power. When writing a poem, for instance, it is often the material properties of the words used, such as their structure and cadence, that help determine the poem’s content. Other elements within writing ecologies are similarly generative. Seen in this way, the content of a text is an emergent property of work in physical space. More specifically, writing is a process of integration and supplementation. Brain, text and tools all have different material affordances. Writing is the act of marshaling these disparate resources (and many others) to achieve wholes bigger than the sum of the parts.

So, how do we think about that materiality–of bodies, behaviors, brains, and tools–within asynchronous spaces where writing happens?

Here’s one space for us to jump in today (or whenever):

This is a [Doc] Where Writing Happens

And here’s another space for us to collaborate in real-time later this week:

This is a [space] Where Writing Happens 

A Letters Community of Practice Workshop, facilitated by WritingwithMachine

Thursday, October 7th, 2:30-3:30pm in the Zooms

More info, coming soon,