Week 7 Recap Blog: Handwriting, Books, and Relevant Mediums of Expression

Usefulness of Handwriting: Self Expression vs. Standardization

Unfortunately, I was not able to attend class on Monday (10/1/2012). However, thanks to the generosity of Will Whiteside, I was able to read his summery of the class and expand on the ideas that were discussed. In class, Aaron Kashton was in attendance and served as a guest speaker. Aaron opened up the class by asking about the advantages and disadvantages of typewriting and handwriting. Handwriting is useful because it can be used anywhere at any given time. As long as someone has a pen or pencil, handwriting can be used. Handwriting also is a good form of self expression. The disadvantage to this however is that not all handwriting is legible. In these cases, handwriting is only useful for the person that wrote it (assuming they can read their own handwriting). Typewriting is great because it puts text into a digital format. Digital text is easy to read, reproduce, and distribute across a wide range in a short amount of time. Hand writing has that personal aspect to it that provides feeling and authenticity.

Although now we may view handwriting as another form of expression, that was not always the case. In the times of Chaucer, handwriting was taught to be uniform based upon social class standing. Workers were taught to write in a specific style as were lawyers and educators. Students were to replicate the style of handwriting that they were taught in order to help create a unified style. Modern instruction of handwriting focuses more on legibility rather than uniformity and standardization. Students across the country typically have the freedom to write in any style they prefer (print or cursive for example).

The personal aspect of handwriting can’t be ignored. Now, handwriting is something we can use as a form of verification and identity. We make it unique – our own. We value the personality that is instilled within someone’s handwriting style. When someone famous signs something, it instantly becomes valuable. Leaving an autograph is like leaving a little piece of one’s self behind on the object that was signed. It proves authenticity, and if preserved, also yields value.

John Hancock’s autograph

Relevance of Books: Combining Past and Present Technologies

Before class on Wednesday (10/3/2012) students were asked to watch a video entitled Elektrobiblioteka / Electrolibrary . The video showed someone going through a rigorous process of turning a book into a physical interface – digitally linking it with a computer. This “digital book” video showed us the entire process of production in a condensed format. Everything from paper production, binding, fabrication, to coding was viewed at rapid pace. While watching the video, one felt a sense of connection and appreciation between medieval book makers and those of modern times. This video made a nice segway into our first discussion of the class: whether or not the book as a medium is still relevant today. Why do we have books / read them? Some would suggest that books are a dying technology in this digital age that we live in, however it is still widely used today.

Kindle E-Book reader.

Books can be viewed as obsolete in the sense that there are easier, more effective ways of disseminating information. However, books as a medium will probably not disappear anytime soon due to their value on an aesthetic, scholarly, and authentic scale. Books, like handwriting, just seem to be much more personal in value. Having the ability to physically hold a text as opposed to only viewing it seems to create a sense of pleasure that can only be accomplished through books. People take pride in filling their home library with books. The aesthetic and entertainment value of magazines prove ever so useful in public places such as the doctor’s office or on a train. Being able to pick up a copy and read it just makes life simple. Despite the fact that technology is widely available and that it has the ability to make text more portable and easily accessible, it also adds more strings than meets the eye. Accessing text in a digital format usually either requires the proper electronic device, an internet connection, or some sort of account with the appropriate service. This means without one or some combination of these items, the text is not accessible. It is much more simplistic to just have the physical copy of the text present.

This video only shows the potential of the book as we know it. The book can still be used as a medium, as long as it is adapted to current global technologies. This video does a fantastic job of doing that – combining old and new technologies to effectively create a new one. In order to preserve old mediums, they must be changed in order to suit our modern society.

Handwriting and Self Expression

Straight from one of our quiz questions, as a class we discussed handwriting and its relation to self expression. Although it widely accepted as a form of self expression now, that wasn’t always the case. As mentioned earlier, handwriting used to be a representation of one’s social class. Aristocrats tended to have sloppy handwriting because they could afford to have someone do their writing for them. Women were always considered to have elegant handwriting.

During Chaucerian times, oddly enough, the idea that writing was form of technology existed. During our discussion, it would seem as though writing was only used until the next until the next innovation came along; in this case, it was the Guttenberg Printing Press. This new innovation made things more simplistic and easily played into that taught concept of uniformity when it comes to writing. There was a strong desire for standardization and replication.

Gutenberg Printing Press

Why Teach This Class?

The final discussion that we had was about the importance of teaching Chaucer and a class like this at Georgia Tech. The conversation expanded into a larger one of what the significance of a Liberal Arts Program at an engineering school is. This class is relevant and helpful because it teaches us to understand the context of history from an alternate viewpoint. Typically, are instruction of world history is biased or misconstrued because we only learn it based off of how it affects the United States as a country. This class has allowed us to study medieval history from an English perspective. We all are able to learn more about writing overall during this time period due to the fact that every writer is a “product of their generation.” Chaucer is a great author to focus on because he was such a political figure. His works can be viewed in so many different ways.

One thing that the majority of the class seemed to agree with was that literature definitely has the power to inspire. An entire era was influenced by the works of Chaucer. Studying his approach back then still holds relevance now because the same concepts can apply even now. People are motivated by what they are read. What is written is often influenced by what is going in politically in the world or particular society. Having the ability to write and persuade is equivalent to having the power to move and drive a nation.

This class brings pleasure to most of us. I think we can all agree that we wouldn’t be taking it if we didn’t enjoy all that takes places within the class. Studying literature and Chaucer is relevant to our experience at Georgia Tech because it is enjoyable. Although it may not directly be relevant to our professional aspirations, the class offers a lot that we use in our lives. We have learned to study a specific style of writing and to conduct independent research on a specific author in order to gain contextual and historical background information. This has enabled us to thoroughly understand the motivation behind Chaucer’s works. Such research is not normally conducted when reading any type of material. The concluding theme that we ended the week with was that “Chaucer is the material used to teach the process, and the process is what is important within this class. This class teaches us critical thinking and analysis, two powerful tools that can be applied to any field with a little creativity and hard work.

Unresolved Questions

Do you think your handwriting is a medium for self expression?
Is the book a dying medium?
How does this class impact your Georgia Tech experience?

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