Materiality Matters: How Human Bodies and Writing Technologies Impact the Composing Process
This article explores the materiality and embodied effects of writing by asking the research question: how are writers’ composing processes affected by the writing technologies they employ? Current scholarship on the embodied effects of writing highlights lived experiences and merits of specific technologies but does not fully investigate the importance of the body itself in the composing process. Drawing together select studies on embodied composition with my own autobiographical study, I investigate the interrelationship between a writer’s body, writing technologies, and the text produced. I build this understanding using Saldaña’s coding methods and inductive analysis of screen recordings, material recordings, and think-aloud protocols. Findings indicate that technologies that caused the most physical discomfort resulted in the fewest generated words and sentences in response to the given prompt and the least amount of time spent writing or generating prose. While these results are unsurprising, the primary takeaway is that writing practices should not be seen as universal or generalizable. Instead, writing ought to be understood and researched as a deeply personal experience that matches technologies to a writer’s individual comfort. Although limited, this study also has pedagogical implications, suggesting teachers reimagine the composition classroom by centering the unique, lived bodies of their students.