Digital Reflection 8

This presentation/performance/talk/’thing’ captures how forms themselves can be used to manipulate the audience (as rhetorical devices). The title itself “Beats Defying Boxes” implies that the performance is intended to be something that goes against expectation. In writing that’s what everything is about: balancing expectation and surprise. I suppose by giving something the label that it is “outside of the box” or that it is “unlabelable”is inherently paradoxical. The concept that everything is being “labeled” lies at the core of what writing is.

Reggie Watts is comical and entertaining. He makes us (the audience) aware that he is manipulating us/messing with us. The entire show hinges on his expectation/assumption that we are watching him expecting to learn something. This is the same sort of “ploy” (perhaps not the best word given the negative connotations, but bear with me) that John Cage employs in his piece 4’33”. We–the audience–are expecting something to be performed and instead are faced with a challenging of those expectations.

I think this is one of the main concepts that links the three “units” in this course. We studied the “definition” of writing and its history. We’ve studied the role that audience can play, but also that personal experience can play, and now we’re studying the role that technology plays. All three of these recognize that writing is a tool, that it is a medium, a filter. It has become intertwined with how we view the world of course, but we must be aware of the fact that it is affecting that world-view. By becoming aware of the expectations we hold regarding writing I think that the surprises generated can be all the more successful.

There are many things to consider when we write, but the first thing we must do is distinguish when we are writing. I took a class last year that focused heavily on Paradise Lost and John Milton and the idea of being “authors unto ourselves.” Every time we speak, every action we take, everything we write is interpreted. Being an author unto ourself implies that we are determining what will be communicated. Of course we decided what we do. We are in control of our own minds and bodies. We self-censor ourselves to fit a given situation–be that physically or digitally. We attempt to draw people in because we care about people “liking” what we say or do. Ultimately, anything and everything that we do today is writing. 

Back to the Reggie Watts and John Cage compositions, I’d say that these are forms of writing as well. We do say that we “write” music if we consider ourselves composers, but aside from that there are many things that correlate between the writing in a verbal sense and writing in a musical sense. There are the same levels of expectation, there’s an audience’ there’s a performer. And I suppose the performer in the grand scheme of life (a life that is completely bound to writing) stands in the same position as a ‘reader’. The performer of a composition isn’t always the composer and so certain interpretational decisions must be made, in reading this is the same.

A story I write for my creative writing class may make perfect sense to me, but surely my classmates will have different takes of what happened and different opinions. This is because everyone is influenced by what they have experienced and witnessed in the past. Just as interpretation is limited by personal experience so is the generative aspect. We can only write what we know, but that doesn’t mean that people coming from different backgrounds won’t be able to relate to what is written, just that they may take away something different from it. In sum, we write our experiences and we read our perceptions.

I’m not intending on calling everyone a perpetrator of confirmation bias, but rather, I’m pointing out that writing has its limits and that we as human beings have our limits. This is what makes writing so amazing, it can provide a lens into another’s experience, it can manipulate us within an experience, but what we take away in the end is what we take away and no one else will share that exactly.

For the literate and illiterate alike, writing–the physical, literal, metaphorical, performative, digital, technical, crafted, article, real, authentic ‘thing’ captures what it means to be human.

*An inability to read doesn’t constitute an inability to write.



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