Putting and Retrieving

This in response to a call issued in Humanist 30.757 hands on


I want to add some remarks about the relation of craft to orchestration.

You characterize Tim Ingold’s take on the implements of writing:

But he also comes down rather hard on modern interfaces for writing — the typewriter and its digital imitation — which do rather badly in comparison with pen and paper. He does not mention the mouse.

You wonder “what would be a persuasive answer to his objection”.

I think it begins by noting how pen and hand like typewriter can display in space a many-voiced text. Ingold [in Making] cites Heidegger to the effect that ‘modern man writes “with” the typewriter’ and emphasizes that “with” is placed under quotation marks by Heidegger. This invites also thinking about writing “with” pen. A direction that Ingold does not take.

Pen and paper can involve many inks, many pieces of paper and many scripts (cursive, blockprinting, etc). Typewriting can involve carriage returns, spacing, backspacing, strikeouts of various sorts and on some models different colours. A word processor provides a full symphony of typographic effects.

I stress the similarities here to raise the question of telos. If the end is to capture the many voices in one’s head then the putative superiority of one mode over another strikes a rather strange note.

Of course in an entirely oral situation we can imagine the assignment of various parts to various groupings of people in a choral round. Thus in certain ways the pen wielder is akin to a conductor.

Following Heidegger, Ingold asserts that the hand can hold and the fingertip can merely touch. But what of counting with one’s fingers or committing to memory a list with places reserved for each item on each finger? “With” indeed.

We place an idea or a voice in a certain locale in the world and then retrieve.

I would venture that placing is akin to craft and retrieval involves orchestration.

In any event, I find it difficult to sustain the narrative of decay that Ingold invokes (“The drift of technological enhancement has been to substitute touch sensitivity at the fingertips for the sentient correspondence of telling by hand.”) as I key in the words that were written by hand out of print in the library copy of the book. The line breaks shift. Migration is the standard.

In the fingertips is the charm of voice.

Intriguing interplay between rest and migration — the words are always already reconstellating.

And so for day 1843

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