The Changing Spaces of Reading and Writing

Commentary 3

For this last commentary, I have selected Bolter’s chapter 9: Writing the Self. I felt this was appropriate as this course has initiated and altered my own thoughts on writing and the affects that writing technology has on the way we think and the way we interact with the actual technology.

Bolter begins the chapter with the following statement:

Writing technologies, in particular electronic writing today, do not determine how we think or how we define ourselves. Rather, they participate in our cultural redefinitions of self, knowledge and experience. (Bolter, 2001, pg.189)

As a society, we are influenced by the technologies that exist and aid in our existence.  The early hunters and gathers were aided and influenced by the use of stone and stick- to which they fashioned tools to hunt and to aid in the preservation of foods.   As a society in the knowledge age, we are influenced by our use of technologies that aid us in the rapid creation and transfer of knowledge.  We exist through the instantaneous movement of 1s and 0s, which has transformed the very quality of our life.   To imagine an existence without these technologies would be a kin to imagining what life would be like to live in a third world without food and shelter.  This existence is prevalent across the world, but not an existence that many Canadians (excluding new Canadians) can identify with.    

Bolter continues in his chapter by claiming “for many, electronic writing is coming to be regarded as a more authentic or appropriate space for the inscription of the self than print.”  (pg. 190)  I ask, is this because we truly know no other space?  Just as I can not identify with the conditions of may inhabitants of this planet, I also can not identify with those ancient cultures who used ancient technologies to carve hieroglyphs and symbols onto tablets; or cultures who employed papyrus to convey the thoughts of the time.   This same logic can be compared to the many seniors who can not grasp and use the computer and internet today; technologies that were not influencing factors in this existence!     

Bolter furthers is chapter by stating that “writing is seen to foster analysis and reflection” (pg. 192) and “writing becomes a tool for reorganizing, for classifying, for developing and maintaining categories.”  (pg. 193)  Considering the vast amount of knowledge and information that is available, this statement is logical.  Perhaps the question that one should ask is which came first, the changes in the use of writing as a knowledge organizer or the amount of knowledge that was available which required to be organized?  Generally speaking, members of a society create or modify tools for a need and not as an accident.   While much like the preverbal genesis of the chicken and egg, the answer would provide the foundations for the affects of writing technologies. 

Lastly, the portion of the chapter that I was most intrigued with implicated current writing technologies and a refined experience for the author   As “the technology of writing has always had a reflexive quality, allowing writers to see themselves in what they write” (Bolter, pg. 189), the desire of a writer want to “change her identity, by assuming a different name and providing a different description” (Bolter, pg. 199) allows the opportunity to create false selves in many virtual worlds including Second Life and chat rooms.   While writing can be a wonderful venue to escape the world, the creation of false worlds can lead to serious repercussions if the author can separate the real from the fiction. 


Bolter, J. (2001). Writing space: Computers, hypertext, and the remediation of print. Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Mahwah, N.J. USA.

1 comment

1 Clare Roche { 11.29.09 at 3:14 pm }

I had a student who dropped out of the university because she preferred to “be” in her virtual world. It was very sad and I suspect it will not be an isolated case.

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