History of Text

I absolutely loved the historical information about writing through the ages. It is simply incredible that the very thing we all take so much for granted, and use so often it is second nature, had to be invented and pass through a series of stages to become what it is today. I suppose every technology is similarly developed, and there are many we take just as much for granted, like the use of electricity or cooking.

I laughed when I read about Plato’s suspicions about writing being bad for people, and causing them to lose knowledge. Not just because I personally write so that I do not  lose knowledge, but because dislike of a new technology is a time-honored tradition and it just warms my heart to hear that people have been freaking out about new things since ancient times. Its just so classic! (haha and it happened in the classical era, I am so funny).

He kind of looks like a Muppet, doesn't he?


The bit about using the newest technology to criticize said technology is also interestingly accurate. I had never really thought about that in depth before reading this Ong article.

All in all, good article, I learned new things. What did you think?

Ong, Plato, Writing, and Computers

I decided to blog as I went along while reading this piece this week to change it up a little. Or more so because it’s actually annoying me and I don’t really want to read the whole thing.


The first few pages already state so many things that I disagree with, don’t like reading, or make no sense to me.

The piece started out with something I thought was important for us to always remember, and that is, “Without writing, the literate mind would not and could not think as it does, not only when engaged in writing, buut normally even when composing it’s thoughts in oral form.”  That is a true and very important thing for us to remember- that’ we’re always writing, even if it is just within our minds to make sense of the world.

Then Ong takes a direction in which I despise.  He next few paragraphs are filled with words that make the sentences not flow together, and it seems that he is trying to create long phrases to impress us.

Then he dives into the part about Plato, Writing, and Computers. This is the part that I really hate. The comparison of “inhuman, pretending to establish outside the mind what in reality can be only in the mind. It is a thing, manufactured product. The same of course is said of computers.” What is that? Really? Yes, a computer in an inhuman machine, a manufactured product that acts outside of our mind. But it does what we tell it to do, it only acts as to how we use it.    Then he talks about Plato and Socrates saying that “writing destroys memory” and that those who write will become forgetful and rely on an external source. This point Ong/Plato/Socrates is/are making is very strange to me, mainly because I write TO remember, so I won’t completely forget one day.

Next comes the part where a text is unresponsive in Plato’s eyes… which yes, this can partially be considered true. But not all texts are this way. Many academic texts, especially articles in  books and journals, can be dry, and are only trying to make one thing apparent: you need to learn this material.  But any kind of narrative, novels, poetry, short stories, etc- that all comes alive by itself. While you cannot talk directly to it, you can reread it, see more angles, empathize for characters, feel the passion… in fact, sometimes I feel more alive reading a book than hearing a story from a friend.

I realize in some way Ong is trying to get across that relying on a computer and modern technology can take away from what we write, but I do not agree, or wish to understand more what he is saying. This piece makes no sense to me.

I will continue reading this Ong article and if I feel differently I will update this blog post. However, for now…

What is Writing?

Source: My Photo, Edited via Picnik

Writing as Death.

“One of the most startling paradoxes inherent in writing is its close association with death.” Excuse me, what? Well I completely disagree with this statement (as is clear in my “Why I Write” essay).  I have never once associated writing with death. If anything, writing is like birth: a chance to reinvent yourself to the world. I do see how writing is able to be resurrected by readers, but why does it have to die in the first place?

Writing as a Technology.

I never really saw writing as a technology, but that’s probably because there are so many other technological things that are more obvious in the sense that we grew up in an era of digital revolutions. When I think technology, I think computers, ipods, cell phones, tvs–but I do not think writing. As I think more about it, I guess some form of writing had to go into each of these technologies.

Writing as Pictures, Pictures as Writing.

It’s interesting how something as complex as writing began as simple scratchings on a stone. I still think writing and pictures go hand-in-hand. Just think back to the books you read when you first learned how to read. Chances are, they were full of  mostly pictures accompanied by a few words.

Writing as Magic.

I think writing has some magical components, but I don’t associate it with magic in the oracle sense mentioned in the reading. That is taking things too far…And who are these “Glamor Grammar” girls? All I thought of when I read this part was the Glamour (as in fashion) girls!

Writing through Scribes.

When I read this part, I instantly thought of my sister who currently works as a medical scribe. I never knew this concept of having someone else record your thoughts and words for you dated so far back.

Writing as Solitude, Writing as Social.

I agree with Ong that writing is a solitary task. When I write it’s essentially just me, my paper, and the thoughts in my head. But writing is just as social as it is solitaire. I immediately think of the writing workshops we do and how much of a conversation takes place between the reader, writer, and text. There is nothing alone about sharing your writing with the world.

 Writing with a Voice.

When you write, you have to consider how you would say the written words out loud. What tone do you want? What message do you want to get across to your readers? These are the types of questions worth asking.  Although writing may seem passive and silent; simply words on a page, writing is just as alive and active as the spoken word.

Writing as Rhetoric.

Personally, I don’t enjoy the word rhetoric. I hadn’t even really heard it used until this year. I think the word rhetoric complicates an otherwise simple concept of “how to write effectively.” If you want people to write effectively, you should communicate to them in a language they understand.

Photo Editing

  • What is the range of software options available in this particular category? There are many options, but the ones we are familiar with are: Adobe Photoshop (payment), Picasa (download), Picnik (free website), iPhoto (Macs), Microsoft Office Picture Manager, and Paintbrush. Here is a list of other free online photo editing websites.
  • What is available for users with different levels of expertise? Photoshop is for advanced users who want to put the time into learning how to use photo editing software. It’s not all just about enhancing your photos, it’s about creating the photo you want. You can do a range of things including photo-enhancing (red eye correction, cropping, color correction) and photo creation (albums, cards, slide shows). Picasa is less advanced then Photoshop, and instead of being software that you have to purchase, all it takes is a quick download. It allows you to save your edited photos on your computer and tag people by face. Picnik is very user-friendly–five minutes with it and you’ll be a pro. It’s common among Facebook users. Picnik has a lot of fun photo effects and extras such as clip art and text.
  • Which options are supported by the University? Photoshop, iPhoto, and Paintbrush
  • What support is available online?  Here is a useful site for photoshop tutorials, a step-by-step written photoshop guide found easily through the Michigan Library website, and a Photoshop Tutorial.
  • What are your favorites (and why), and/or what else should we know? Erica’s favorite is Photoshop because there are so many cool photo-editing options with the software, but she is still learning how to use it. Kaitlin’s favorite is Picasa because of the easy-to-use editing tools and comprehensive photo-saving abilities.
  • Here are some examples of photos we’ve edited using the various photo-editing options!
Photoshop: Contrast, lighting


Picnik: Text, photo enhancement, clip art
Picasa: Color fading, photo enhancement



What is writing?

Seems like a simple enough question.  Most of us write all the time: we write academically, we write socially, some of us even write in our spare time.  But when it comes down to it, what are we writing?  The Ong piece brought up the idea that writing is a symbolic way of sharing our thoughts.  It also mentioned that writing is artificial, it’s something we have to put down and therefore it loses its naturalness.


Plato was a big naysayer against writing; he claimed it was inhuman and was falsifying what went on in the mind.  My question is, how are writing and speaking that different from each other?  Isn’t using spoken word taking a thought in your mind and putting it out into the real world?  Is that artificial then?  The ideas of “real” and “artificial” are so blurry and vague that it becomes easy to say that all things are artificial.  And what necessarily makes artificial bad?  If I were to ever meet Plato, I would definitely ask him some of these questions, my biggest one being: How can you write about how bad writing is?  Isn’t that the most hypocritical thing to do?  If you think writing is so bad, then don’t do it.  But then the difficult part becomes communicating.  Writing makes living easier.  Writing allows some piece of yourself to be preserved in time to convey the thought that you were feeling.


Without writing, the literate mind would not and could not think as it does, not only when engaged in writing but normally even when it is composing its thoughts in oral form.” (W. Ong, 1982, p. 77)


Random Ruminations on Honesty and Writing

Lots of the blogs so far have been about expressing oneself through writing, and so has the articles we’ve read. Honesty is implied in that expression. To express oneself dishonestly seems contrary to the purpose of expression. However, sometimes it is quite a bit easier to be dishonest, to insert good thoughts, good intentions, and sensible mores where there is really disorder and bad ideas. Dishonesty is nicer than honesty. If the world went exactly the way my lies do sometimes, it would be a much simpler place, I would make better choices, and have a much less contradictory mindset. The worst is when you lie in writing, like in a diary or whatever. That is the ultimate form of self deception, writing down “Everything is fine, I am just lovely” on your crisp, white page, knowing that even the college-ruled lines do not believe you.

Think back to the last time you had a truly honest conversation. It hurt, didn’t it? Almost as much as writing down your honesty, making it permanent and stark. Writing something down makes it real, and all the erasing in the world can’t make it go away once it has manifested itself in a well-organized sentence.

Honesty in writing is what draws people to it in the first place. Adele is an incredible singer, no one could deny that. But I believe it is her raw, honest songwriting that draws people to her music. Sometimes the rhymes are a little rough, and the theme doesn’t always vary, but it always feels like this is how she truly feels. Her songs sometimes flip flop between strength and acceptance, and despair, the way real thoughts do. Joss Whedon writes some of my favorite TV series and movies, like Firefly and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Though the characters in each of these series experience much more dramatic circumstances than the average person (I’m pretty sure you aren’t a space pirate or the Chosen One), the writing is relatable because it feels honest. Mal Reynolds and Buffy Summers might live in the world of complete fantasy, but both feel like fully realized people full of contradictions, unpretty decision making, and the kind of emotional honesty you don’t always find on television.

This is why plagiarism and ghostwriting are so repugnant. Writing is most effective when it is honest, and faking that honesty is perverse in some unexplained way. I cannot pretend that I have an eloquent or logical argument as to why that is, and I probably should, but it is just unsettling to take another’s ideas and claim them as your own honest ones. When the rest of us struggle to find the most true words to tell stories that aren’t always the ones the audience wants to hear, knowing that other people blatantly steal their words, or lie about them is frustrating.

Writing is on my mind..

So when asked to write about anything writing related that is on our minds, I couldn’t help but jump at this chance. Any other semester, I don’t think I have spent more than 20 minutes “thinking” about writing. Yes, it is true that I must write for my other classes, but I have never consciously thought about how it made me feel or really anything bayond the initial argument. However, this semester, with two english classes and a writing minor all coming at me at once, it seems that I cannot even help but think about writing.

In my English 325 class, the art of the creative nonfiction, I was required to write a personal narrative. There were no page limits, no themes we must abide to, only the expanse of “me” that I was told was the subject and narrator of this piece. When I went to type up a few thoughts, my mind went completely blank. It was as if any experience that I had ever had to shape or define me had been deemed insignificant, not by anyone else but by myslelf. I can’t say that there is anything scarier than not having faith in your life, yourself, your beliefs, goals, etc. And this is how i felt after realizing that was happening to me. Here is a little blurb of my almost finished essay:

Much like how I would consider myself a dancer, I have labeled myself a writer in recent years. It has come easily to me in the specific contexts in which I am forced to practice. However, when met with the task of the creative nonfiction essay, I was challenged. As I faced this daunting task, I was unsure if there was anything else that I have done in my time at the university that has made me as uncomfortable. Instead of stepping up and documenting one of the hundreds of instances in life that has shaped me, defined me, or labeled me, I refused to look introspectively into myself for fear of uncovering vulnerability within my soul that I was unwilling to revisit. Even with the encouragement of others, I felt that this simple task was just something that I would be unable to do. Looking back, I can see that this may be trait that has defined me throughout my life.

I am done letting this mindset define me. Writing is on my mind, and I am incredibly thankful. I truly do not know if I would have come to that conclusion without it.

Writing Out Loud

I chose to title this post “Writing Out Loud” because, to me, blogging feels like the writer is talking out loud and sharing something with you. In its unconventional nature, it allows a sort of conversation to occur between writer and reader.

Blogging has always been a genre of writing that I have struggled with. I don’t know if it is just because I am a perfectionist and I want my writing to reflect that or if I am afraid of fully exposing myself to the World Wide Web. I really enjoyed reading Andrew Sullivan’s article “Why I Blog” because it opened my eyes to many aspects of the “blogging” genre. The instantaneous nature of blogging requires a successful author to not only be open to criticism, but also to interact with his/her readers. The commenting feature of blogs allows anyone and everyone to be your “editor.”

Sullivan points out an important difference between a log and a book and that is “as you read a log, you have the curious sense of moving backward in time as you more forward in pages…” This was something that I never thought about. A log or in this case, a blog, has an unknown ending because it is catalog history as it happens. This history may just be the writer’s feelings, but it may also be actual monumental events. Sullivan points out how blogs allow writer and reader to experience these events together. He mention how his readers and him experienced 9/11 together, “in real time.”

I think this friendship and/or shared experience that blogging allows between writer and reader is what is the most transforming aspect of this genre. Now, instead of reading a magazine or newspaper article and forming your own opinion, you can share that opinion with the writer. And, the writer will actually respond to you. Blogs allow for the writer to feel like an intimate friend opposed to a distant public figure. Personality is the aspect I find most rewarding about blogging. Unlike ever before, the voice of the author can be easily heard because there are no editors telling you to edit your voice.

Why I Don’t Blog

Andrew Sullivan purports an interesting perspective on blogging.  Some statements seemed to resonate with me as someone who is trying to become a blogger instead of just a traditional academic argumentation author.  He concludes that blogs are

“more free-form, more accident-prone, less formal, more alive.  It is, in many ways, writing out loud.”

This seems initially liberating.  What a treat to escape the harsh criticism of an editor or a professor and to just write what you pleased instantaneously… and then you can say whatever you want and it doesn’t really have to be all that correct because there is an apparent symbiotic relationship between the blogger and the reader.  Say whatever you want! It’s liberating!  Except… it is on the internet.  Forever.  And ever, and ever, and ever, and you cannot delete what you said in your moment of a lack of emotional control.

Whoa, whoa, whoa there Andrew Sullivan.  I was just thinking about how great it would be to shake the traditional format of writing for a liberating form like blogging.  No thanks.  As a political science student heading out into the field of law and eventually politics, nothing seems more unappealing than posting a political rant on the internet that can be pulled up on my campaign trail.  The argument that blogging is a free open space of chaos does not entice me from leaving the safe, patient research of a traditional argument.  I need to be able to hold to my commitment of my argument, and nothing about an in-the-moment tirade sounds like a good idea.  Blogging to me seems like posting a drunken picture of yourself on Facebook at a party with a red Solo cup in one hand and a fifth of Southern Comfort in the other while dancing on a table.  Sounds like fun at the time… until your job application gets denied.

“But blogging requires an embrace of such hazards, a willingness to fall off the trapeze rather than fail to make the leap.” – Andrew Sullivan

Writing in general requires an author to take risks. The best papers and novels aren’t those that are innocent and plain; rather, they are pieces that require the author to take a chance, experiment with ideas, arguments and word choice, and challenge the audience. From my own experience, I have found my best papers to be those that challenge the readers’ beliefs and effectively convince the audience to consider a different approach to an argument that once seemed black and white. In my opinion, successful writing requires one to take risks and not just write about the easiest topic to defend.

Blogging is one of the riskiest forms of writing because it is immediate, egocentric, and extremely honest. In the words of Andrew Sullivan a journalist and blogger for The Atlantic, blogging is “intimate, improvisational, and individual, but also collective.” A blog allows an author to gather and record their most intimate thoughts on a public forum that is immediately accessible to millions of readers. Furthermore, there’s a sense of permanency that blogging entails. Once someone blogs something, it’s almost impossible to totally delete. Along with this permanency and wide-reaching accessibility comes a natural fear of being rejected, judged, or dismissed by the audience. Thus far, the Writing Minor community has created an environment that fosters individuality and honest writing, which makes blogging an interactive and enjoyable process. I enjoy reading the ideas of my peers and sharing my ideas with them in an academic, yet laidback, forum.