Do not write more than 12 lines…

How software softly ‘tells’ you how to write. It doesn’t impose, oh no, it just suggests… why wouldn’t you write like this, that’ll be best… don’t you think?

I do not like those suggestions.

That’s why I already have a love-hate relationship with WordPress.

‘Write Post’ suggests, softly, that I write short posts. Like of about 12 lines. The major part of the screen of my 12”-powerbook is taken by the rest of the interface (which is clear enough, no reason for severe criticism). The box for writing is 12 lines long. Of course I can write as much as I want. Of course I can change whatever I’d like to change. But that’s not the point. How many people actually change the default? And besides that: one needs room for the other elements of the interface as well.

The point is how the software (and how it is presented) programs a certain kind of writing. Short posts. Categorized. And writing a short post means that you’re trying to be concise and clear. The act of categorizing installs database-thinking. Consciously or unconsciously, maybe even secretly you are writing for an interlinked and searchable database.

Of course, that is what you are doing anyway. At least, seen from the perspective of a machine. In case you are using bloggingsoftware like WordPress, you are filling a MySQL-database with categorized data. But also if you’re doing everything by hand, old-skool, you are filling the database of the search engines.

But there is a difference (is there?) When writing old-skool in BBedit, using simple HTML, you are constructing a sequence. You are in a flux of time, writing is keeping track of time, it just goes on and on, one post comes after the other.

When using WordPress, or a similar package, your posts may be, by default, presented in a chronological way, yet when writing and categorizing the post, there is much more of a database-feeling. You store your thoughts and notes away, putting them in boxes. Feels more like filing (note: with one ‘l’).

Maybe this is a good analogy. Using WordPress is more like writing notes on filing cards and putting the cards in a box. That is a very specific way (and genre) of writing. Writing, to state that again, is for me more like a flux.

The fact that I first click ‘write post’, then write, then — inside the same interface first choose some categories and then click ‘save’ or ‘publish’, helps the feeling of ‘filing’.

What I like about blogging, (or what I used to like about blogging?) is that it stresses writing as an ongoing activity, the flux.

That does not go very well together with filling filing cards, tagging them in multiple ways, and storing them in boxes.

Anyway, in a sense this also comes down to the by now classic ‘trope’ that computer-writing (hypertext et cetera), is spatial. (Does it?)

Personal note 1: Using filing cards — as a research method — never worked out for me. I have my notebook, I have multiple text-documents in folders on my harddisk, all drafts and rough texts and quotations and copies of webpages. A ‘mess’, one that works for me.

Personal note 2: for me writing has always been an act of keeping up with time. I see it as something that flows. Hence rhythm is very important for me — in writing and reading. I can endlessly listen to jazz, freejazz, free improvisation…

en,research,software,ubiscribe,writing | April 3, 2006 | 13:04 | Comments Off on Do not write more than 12 lines… |


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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 License. | Arie Altena