Writing. A Trace-Making Perspective Review by Eszter Szép

Eds Christian, Mosbaek Johaannessen, Theo Van Leeuwen
2018 unpublished
The collection, based on a conference held at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense in November 2014, offers insightful reflections on questions raised by writing at the beginning of the 21 st century, and on contemporary interactions with a wide array of traces: traces made by children and by experienced calligraphers, by hand and by computer, produced intimately and displayed publicly. The introduction defines the human race as a trace-making species, and emphasizes that the study of
more » ... that the study of traces, and more closely the study of writing, is only feasible with contributions by the representatives of many sciences. The volume itself is made extremely interesting, thorough and engaging because its contributors come from many disciplines, and because it does not only focus on theory. Practitioners' contributions demonstrate and shed new lights on the ideas elaborated in more theoretical papers, and the collection as such emphasizes how fruitful it is when theory and practice are not separated. The chapters are organized into four sections, starting out with articles emphasizing the importance of handwriting both in brain development and in creating our humanity. The second section, the chapters of which were written by calligraphers, demonstrate the involvement of the body and the performance of making signs. The third section investigates computer generated or digital traces, and the final section focuses on signs and logos in the public sphere. The arrangement of the articles suggests openness to examine non-written signs and icons on public display along with handwritten ones, and an approach to focus on not only the making, but also on the reception of signs. The first two chapters in the collection argue for not abandoning the teaching of handwriting at schools, but use very different arguments. Aurélie Lagarrigue and Marieke Longcamp, the authors of the first chapter, claim that "learning how to write has consequences on the organisation of the brain" (16). They show the results of a number of experiments and evidence coming from neuropsychology and neuroscience, and also argue that if one knows how to write a letter of an unknown language, one's visual recognition of written language is significantly better than the visual recognition of those who learned the letters with the help of a keyboard, but never reproduced them by hand. In other words, reading skills are influenced by writing skills. Different reaction is given to handwritten letters than to printed ones, and experiments also show that the recognition of The Materiality of Writing. A Trace-Making Perspective