In my classes, I rarely ever write anything anymore on the board. Some terms it is never. Increasingly it is never ever that I use the white-board (I can't even recall the last time I had a blackboard in the classroom!)
My office has a couple of shelves of handwritten notes from students. One of my favorites is a two-page letter from a student thanking me for the teacher/guide that I apparently was to her. Two pages of handwritten text; imagine that!
A handwritten piece is a reminder to me that we are humans. In fact, handwriting is so artisanal. We might--and do--use machines, but a handwritten letter or a thank-you card is wonderfully human even in how the lettering towards the end does not look the same as in the beginning. In the digital font world, like even here in this blog-post the letter "e" at the beginning is the same as here.
Unlike digital’s precision, writing is blurry individuality under a general system. But in addition to this, we all have our own personalized understanding of arrows, squiggles, double-underlines and so on—little personal codes we develop over time to “talk to ourselves.” To write by hand is to always foreground an inevitable uniqueness, visually marking out an identity in opposition to, say, this font you’re reading right now.In a world where people seem to communicate via the hieroglyphics of emojis, and vowel-free txt msgs, the chicken-scrawl handwriting that most of us have is well on its way out, it seems.
what pens do offer is both practical and symbolic resistance to the pre-programmed nature of the modern web—its tendency to ask you to express yourself, however creatively and generatively, within the literal and figurative constraints of a small, pre-defined box. There is a charming potential in the pen for activity that works against the grain of those things: to mark out in one’s own hand the absurdities of some top ten list, or underlining some particularly poignant paragraph in a way that a highlight or newly popular screenshotting tool doesn’t quite capture. Perhaps it’s the visual nature of the transgression—the mark of a hand slashed across a page—that produces emblematically the desire for self-expression: not the witty tweet or status update, nor just the handwritten annotation, but the doubled, layered version of both, the very overlap put to one’s own, subjective ends. And then there is more simple pleasure: that you are, in both an actual and metaphorical sense, drawing outside the lines. If one can draw over and annotate a web page and then send it to a friend, for example, the web at least feels less hegemonic, recalling the kind of interactivity and freedom of expression once found in the now-broken dream of blog comment sections.It will be awesome, indeed, if the comments at this blog were handwritten. What a joy it will be to scribble on a Facebook page wall ;)