ENGL 300: Texts and Contexts
14 May 2018
The Importance of Documents
Scrolling Forward discusses the significance of documents. The roles a document plays, the different types of documents, the history of documents, etc. Chapter 11 is the concluding chapter in this book. David Levy says, “We’ve managed to create a technological infrastructure that allows us to produce digital forms in a flash and distribute them in unlimited quantities nearly anywhere in the world in an instant” (p.196) He continues to say, “And more than ever before, we think of these new, virtual documents as mere carriers of information, and information nutrients that need to be squeezed out of them and quickly ingested” (p. 196). A document is not the same as it once was, especially in the technological era. Documents are important because they are recorders of information and no matter how technological a document might become, society will always need them.
Documents are everywhere, even places one might not recognize. Chapter 6 of What Writing Does and How it Does it says, “Every day we encounter texts that hold together words, drawings, colors, charts, photographs, animations sound, video and so on” (Bazerman, Prior, & Wysocki p. 123). Texts are documents and from that description, they are in many shapes and forms. Any of these texts/documents could be on screen, on paper, and/or both. School is a prime example of how people/students encounter the variety of forms. PowerPoints can have colors, charts, animations, text, etc. and that is only one form of technology that presumably students encounter on a daily basis. Reading the school newspaper would also provide a student with the same interaction with the different forms. Documents are used to communicate and those items show the variety of ways people can connect through a piece of paper or on screen document.
Feminist Research in Theory and Practice discusses forms of research. Research could not be done without the use of documents. The introduction of this book states, “A method is a technique, a tool for doing research, for gathering evidence, for collecting data. Examples include surveys, interviews, focus groups and conversation analysis” (Letherby p.5). Imagine the difficulty of not being able to write down evidence or data, and conducting things like surveys seem almost impossible without the use of a document. Writing or typing things down in research is crucial to have correct results.
Documents are not only in many shapes and forms they have different purposes. One purpose is to persuade. Feminism and Affect at the Scene of Argument states, “Rhetoric refers to the use of speech or writing to persuade. All the texts that I [Tomlinson] consider in this book are trying to ‘persuade’” (Tomlinson p.21). The author is not saying all texts/documents persuade, just the ones she is discussing in this book. Persuasion can influence someone and this can be done through speaking or through documents. Those documents can be hand-written, typed, emailed, etc. The form of the document does not matter, but one job it could have is to persuade.
Another job a document could have besides persuading is reaching out and connecting with someone. Chapter 5 in Scrolling Forward says, “While letter-writing lacked the immediacy of contact we’ve come to expect from our newest communications technologies, it had and still has certain benefits, not at least that it leaves a tangible product, something that can be held, kept, reread, and treasured” (Levy p.78). An actual paper document provides that feeling, and while technology doesn’t exactly provide that intimacy, it could provide it in different ways. For example, an email can be printed, a picture can be shared, a letter can be scanned, etc. While the book argues technology lacks intimacy and letter-writing does not, intimacy can be made just in different ways. The same message is sent, just in different formats. Either way, the document is important for reaching out, connecting and communicating with someone.
Chapter 1 of Scrolling Forward discusses a particular document, a receipt. A receipt is a document that holds a lot of information and predictably, it is something that people see on a daily basis. This document teaches what someone bought, where someone bought that something, when, and for how much (Levy p.7). The chapter discusses the history of the receipt, “This little receipt is a historical document” (Levy p.8). The receipt has undergone many changes, a receipt was once a human who witnessed purchases and now many skip the paper with technological transactions. Receipts tell a story of “the way financial transactions are orchestrated in our culture. The receipt is meant to function as proof of purchase…or to return or exchange the items purchased” (Levy p.16) Receipts document the exchange of goods and services. They communicate, are different sizes and shapes, are pieces of evidence, are forms of persuasion (to get money back), a connection, and more. A receipt is a prime example of how documents are important.
- Will the paper receipt completely disappear? It would be better for the environment, but could it actually be done since some people do not have access to technology?
- When I was in Elementary/Middle School, all of my paper assignments were handwritten. In high school, we transitioned to typing papers. Do students still handwrite papers in lower grades or is it all on technological now?
- Recently, schools have taken teaching cursive out of the curriculum. Will this trend continue and handwriting altogether be eliminated with the use of technology?
Word Count: 922
Bazerman, Charles, and Paul Prior. What Writing Does and How It Does It: an Introduction to Analyzing Texts and Textual Practices. Routledge, 2009.
Letherby, Gayle. Feminist Research in Theory and Practice. Open University Press, 2003.
Levy, David M. Scrolling Forward: Making Sense of Documents in the Digital Age. Arcade Publishing, 2016.
Tomlinson, Barbara. Feminism and Affect at the Scene of Argument: beyond the Trope of the Angry Feminist. Temple University Press, 2010.