When addressing Composition Studies as a discipline that studies the ways in which human beings compose texts, it is interesting to consider the various cultural practices and tools available for us to engage with acts of composition, especially the intersection of exterior and interior methods of composing. In their article “Chronotopic Lamination: Tracing the Contours of Literate Activity,” Paul Prior and Jody Shipka respond to and synthesize a number of theoretical concepts, namely that of chronotopic lamination, as a way of understanding the “dispersed, fluid chains of places, times, people and artifacts that come to be tied together in trajectories of literate action.” When intersected with a later section of the same article, where the authors address the formation of consciousness as “the durable equipping of mind with the legacy of cultural tools and practices” we might be spurned to consider the particular intersection of the outer world with the private interior in the instance of making those private, linguistic languages or methods public in an act of performance that might correspond to the essential practices of art=making. When considering the act of composition, it is possible to analyze the situational context and the many asynchronous, fluid and environmental elements that come to bear on the interior maps being formulated. However, it necessarily depends on the consciousness of the composer of texts to mediate the mutual inter-penetration of inner and outer domains. This dialectic of interior and exterior has an interesting place in understanding the lineage of thought-forms that occur throughout the history of a given author’s organic and cerebral biography. An apt metaphor for understanding the role of consciousness in this act of composing texts is to think of authors as having an aperture as do cameras where the level of illumination and sphere of self-exposure to the forces of influence (both those in the external world such as place-time, human interactions, material artifacts of influence and the interiors like a lineage of transformation as a writer) might close or open, depending on the purpose and context of the writing.

Consciousness, however, as both an a priori organic state of being and a context-dependent arising of the self is available to authors as a fluid tool of awareness that surrounds and permeates the intentional activity of writing. When placed within the context of digital literacy theories, it is interesting to consider the ways that technology has both been spurred by a socio-cultural evolutionary development and the ways that the products of this development have begun to inform practitioners of composing digitally in a kind of uroborus of influence. Artists are especially keen to the semiotic possibilities of new mediums and continue to open visionary windows as distillers of unexplored potentialities. A primary example of a work representative of a conscious examination of digital literacy practices is O, composed by writer and multimedia artist Tom Comitta. In O, the author catalogs and curates the multiplicity of round counters found in Unicode typefaces, gleaning and aesthetically organizing the type to create a tableau of scripted form that might be positing a sort of post-semiotic and trans-linguistic temporal universe made available through digital platforms. However, it is necessary to extend the discussion of consciousness to the role of the reader of this text as well who travels in tubular threads down the columns of text at times vertiginously confronted with an array of shape-forms that pattern and fill the awareness of the reader. At other moments the scroll function introduces a morphologically unstable textual event where we are confronted with culturally-specific images such as chess pieces and scissors intermixed with script from around the world. This heterogeneous textual encounter is a kaleidoscopic act of interpreting and translating at the borders of our socio-historical present. Additionally, it is perfect in its ability to open interior domains of reading and to begin understanding how technology, literacy and consciousness intersect in a single textual art-i-fact.

Digital Literacy and Emergent Form


One comment on “Digital Literacy and Emergent Form

  1. “O” is really engrossing. You’re right that, because of the sheer quantity of them, its Unicode symbols with circular elements seem to transcend semiotics. Or maybe I should say that they seem, after a time, to be from a pre-semiotic time–to be just so many shapes coming into contact with one another to create contingencies.

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