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Graphic trace-making as articulated-expressive trajectories of movement: de-textualizing and de-stratifying writing


‘Language’ is one particular manifestation and organization of the dynamic matter-energy-information flows that constitute the material reality of the world. Molecules, genes, cells, minerals, and words, for instance, are all “different manifestations of” and different expressions of this single reality (De Landa 1997: 21). In the case of writing, ‘text’ is often seen as an abstract ‘linguistic’ entity that is separate from the physical object on which it is installed. The intensive matter-energy-information flows that are characteristic of the material dynamics of the world on many different strata are consequently ignored or cancelled. The physical object on which the text is installed is therefore often seen as irrelevant to the linguistic ‘text’ that is inscribed on it (Harris, 1990/1984: 217). As Harris (1995) has shown, the fundamentally spatial character of graphic inscriptions on material artefacts affords patterns of movement –in-time when we scan, process and interpret these traces.

Following this line of thought, I will argue and further develop the view that text and artefact are equally important in the contextualization of articulated graphic traces as written signs. Graphic trace-making, including linguistic and other modes of writing, can be seen as vectorial-dynamic movement patterns in the process of articulating and relating experiences to each other as well as the experiences of writers and readers. The grammaticalization of linguistic writing and its consequent reification as ‘text’ in the practices of modern linguistics and associated pedagogies of the written text ignores this fundamental aspect of graphic trace-making on account of its interest in the end products of the processes of graphic trace-making, seen as abstract verbal-semantic relations between determinate linguistic units (e.g., words, phrases, clauses, etc.). Rather than a focus on these textual products, I will argue that these patterns are one layer of constraints on the underlying processes of graphic articulation and trace-making and the nonlinguistic experiences they engender.

A further consequence of the reification referred to above is that writing is seen as separate from and different from the embodied nature of talk. I will aim to show that a focus on the textual (e.g., linguistic) end products of writing obscures but cannot cancel the fact that graphic trace-making is in fact a more explicit public layer of articulation-differentiation of more implicit ‘inner’ gestures that underlie all forms of writing (Werner & Kaplan, 1984/1963). How do these bodily dynamic-vectorial movement patterns relate to explicitly articulated graphic traces and to our modes of experiencing these traces? To answer these questions, I will build some links to the work of Ingold (2007). Writers and readers participate in trajectories of becoming when they become entangled with the plurality of connections engendered by the many ways in which writing threads out into and takes part in the lines of becoming that link writing, persons, and the world. The exercise of our sensori-motor knowledge in the tracing of materially inscribed lines of writing constitute paths of interactivity – trajectories of becoming. Writing articulates pathways and trajectories of movement and becoming—both actual and virtual-- by orchestrating diverse materials and directing their flows along pathways that lead us into the world.