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Sign Here!: Handwriting in the Age of New Media

Sonja Neef
José van Dijck
Eric Ketelaar
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 248
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  • Book Info
    Sign Here!
    Book Description:

    Sign Here! Handwriting in the Age of New Media features a number of articles from different fields, reaching from cultural and media studies to literature, film and art, and from philosophy and information studies to law and archival studies. Questions addressed in this book are: Will handwriting disappear in the age of new (digital) media? What happens to important cultural and legal concepts, such as original, copy, authenticity, reproducibility, uniqueness, and iterability? Where is the writing hand to be located if handwriting is performed not immediately 'by hand' but when it is (re)mediated by electronic or artistic media? Sign Here! Handwriting in the Age of New Media is the first part in the series Transformations in Art and Culture. This title is available in the OAPEN Library -

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0547-0
    Subjects: Linguistics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-3)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 4-6)
  3. Sign Here! Handwriting in the Age of Technical Reproduction: Introduction
    (pp. 7-20)
    José van Dijck and Sonja Neef

    On some computer screens, particularly large projection screens used for classroom presentations, you may find a peculiar pictogram, showing a right hand holding a pen, crossed out by a bold red diagonal line – not unlike a non-smoking sign – conveying the warning ‘do not write here’.¹ Against a backdrop of an old-fashioned blackboard in the seminar room, the sign takes on a historical meaning. Indeed, we only rarely write with chalk or pen these days, as our private desktops and public classrooms are inundated with computers and media equipment, and our writing tools mostly consist of keyboards, screens, and...

  4. Section One: Authentic Copies

    • Authentic Events: The Diaries of Anne Frank and the Alleged Diaries of Adolf Hitler
      (pp. 23-49)
      Sonja Neef

      This article approaches the concepts of authenticity and copy by focusing on two autographs whose authenticity is at the core of a longstanding and culturally urgent debate: Anne Frank’s diaries and the alleged diaries of Adolf Hitler. Combining these cases by discussing them in one and the same paper may, at first sight, seem odd, or even blasphemous. By taking a closer look at these diaries, however, I will concentrate on a rhetoric of authenticity that they share and that, at the same time, distinguishes them radically. The aim, then, is to arrive at a differentiated view of the concept...

    • The Authority of Drawing: Hand, Authenticity, and Authorship
      (pp. 50-59)
      Michael Wetzel

      The idea of an ‘authentic copy’ that forms the focus of this book’s chapter, is based on a contradiction; on what is rhetorically termed acontradictio in adiecto: ‘authenticity’ is generally associated with genuineness, originality, uniqueness. In other words, with something that cannot or should not be reproduced or that could only be ‘copied’ by losing its character, its specificity; in short, its sense. Thus, we can refer to cultural theories, for example on the decline of media societies – as represented, in a first and superficial impression, by someone like Walter Benjamin – that are based on the opposition...

    • Authenticity and Objectivity in Scientific Communication: Implications of Digital Media
      (pp. 60-75)
      John Mackenzie Owen

      Digital media are quite unlike the ‘mechanical’ reproduction media that figure so often in the literature of cultural and media studies. Both the interaction between author and user through the digital medium, and a number of other intrinsic qualities of many digital media, lead to novel interpretations of the concepts of ‘copy’ and ‘authenticity’ in the digital world. Digital media re-introduce some aspects of authenticity that were lost through the use of purely mechanical media. Digital media also lead to new conceptions of authenticity and power, related to shifts of control from author to reader and from publisher to author,...

    • Authenticity in Bits and Bytes
      (pp. 76-92)
      Hannelore Dekeyser

      Writing has been instrumental in bringing mankind to where it is today, without it, accumulating the amount of knowledge currently at our disposal would have been unthinkable. Writing has also shaped the legal system into what we know today. The existence of nation-states with national laws, as opposed to local customary law, is to a large extent a legacy of the printing press, which allowed for legal texts to be spread fairly quickly over large regions.¹ In this legal landscape, handwriting has continuously served as the authentication method of choice.

      The development of information technology is a revolution of at...

  5. Section Two: Re-Mediating Handwriting

    • Signature Identity Content: Handwriting in an Age of Digital Remediation
      (pp. 95-115)
      Richard Grusin

      On the morning of December 10, 2003, I opened my Eudora in-box to find an unread e-mail message from a person I had never met, named Sonja Neef, with the intriguing subject line: ‘Invitation’. Opening the e-mail, I was flattered to find a letter inviting me to be the keynote speaker at a conference on ‘remediating handwriting’ planned for Weimar the following June. The letter concluded conventionally with ‘Best regards, Sonja Neef’. But because it was an e-mail letter, it lacked the conventional handwritten signature of a printed letter. Instead, beneath the customary signatory formulation on this electronic letter, which...

    • Writing the Self: Of Diaries and Weblogs
      (pp. 116-133)
      José van Dijck

      A cartoon that recently appeared in a Dutch newspaper shows a man and a woman lying in bed, smoking a cigarette apparently after having sex. ‘Do you keep a diary?’ the man asks his partner, and upon her response of ‘no’, he comments: ‘Good. I don’t like it when a woman immortalizes her intimate experiences with me on paper’. In the last frame, we see the woman sitting behind a computer screen and typing ‘Dear weblog…’, while the man snores away on the bed behind her. In this short cartoon, we can detect a number of preconceived notions about diaries...

    • Hands on the Document: Arnold Dreyblatt’s T Archive
      (pp. 134-149)
      Arnold Dreyblatt and Jeffrey Wallen

      I have been working for many years on the development of an artistic practice that has involved the acquisition, administration and display of historical archival source materials. The ‘T Project’ is one of a series of ongoing works that looks at the archival traces of the individual as represented in written storage.

      Whereas parallel projects, such as myWho’s Who in Central & East Europe 1933(Dreyblatt, 1991, 1995) are based on biographical data from thousands of people as a representation of the collective, the ‘T Project’ concerns one individual, a marginal and mostly forgotten Central European historical figure whose multiple...

    • Faithfully Submitted: The Logic of the Signature in Marcel Proust’s A la recherche
      (pp. 150-163)
      Mieke Bal

      Proust, known for having handwritten most of the 4,000 pages of hisA la recherche du temps perdu, an essential work of modernist narrative prose, lying in bed on loose pieces of paper, had terrible handwriting. Small, densely written on any scrap of paper that he could lay his hands on, full of corrections, the augustly named ‘manuscripts’ make the task of putting these scraps in printed form a daunting one. The editors of the two successive Pléiade editions, one in three volumes in 1954 and one in four volumes with ample editorial notes in 1987-89, have accomplished a seemingly...

    • (Hand)writing Film History: Saul Bass Draws Martin Scorsese in a Title Sequence and writes his Name Underneath
      (pp. 164-180)
      Rembert Hüser

      Something starts to hatch in the upper right-hand part of the screen. White lines on black. No pen, no hand. Just a movement and a sound. The movement is controlled, it is up to something. A curve, it is now drawing an ear. Figurative drawing. A forehead (the hatched elements are the hair), again hatching: an eyebrow, nose (dot, dot, comma, dash), stop – handwriting, we follow the words: ‘A personal journey’, underlined (this is a headline), music starts, new paragraph, ‘with Martin Scorsese’, new paragraph, ‘through American Movies’.

      Martin Scorsese’s contribution to the series of national cinema documentaries ‘celebrating...

  6. Section Three: Handwriting and (Dis-)Embodiment

    • Writing on Archiving Machines
      (pp. 183-195)
      Eric Ketelaar

      A paper on archiving machines has to start with aFreudian impression– the subtitle of Jacques Derrida’s Archive Fever.¹ Derrida distinguishes three forms of impression. The first Freudian impression is an inscription (Niederschrift), such as Freud’s ownNotiz über den ‘Wunderblock’, handwritten in 1924, printed in 1925, and translated in 1940 as ‘A Note upon the “Mystic Writing Pad”’, reactivated in 2000 by artist Arnold Dreyblatt in his installation ‘The Wunderblock’ (Freud quoted in Draaisma, 7-9; Dreyblatt).

      This first Freudian impression evokes a second one. With hisNote, Freud made an impression – he continues to make an impression...

    • Blood Samples and Fingerprint Files: Blood as Artificial Matter, Artistic Material, and Means of the Signature
      (pp. 196-205)
      Thomas Fechner-Smarsely

      All handwriting leaves a trace, even if it is only the trace of an absent body that produced this trace. This trace can be anything from a drawn line or a scribble to a short note, a sketch or a signature, and it can mean anything, ranging from mere ‘non-sense’ produced in the process of a bodily automatism while thinking of something else, to a meaningful act of leaving a message or even of authenticating oneself through the act of signing.

      Therefore, writing, handwriting, and drawing may always commence with a playful act without definite purpose: a face drawn in...

    • Writing Over the Body, Writing With the Body: On Shirin Neshat’s Women of Allah Series
      (pp. 206-220)
      Begüm Özden Firat

      A close-up in black and white. A larger than life-size portrait of a woman covered in black, with a black veil. The veil only leaves her eyes and nose visible whereas her lips and neck are hidden beneath the black folds that frame her face and expands across the image’s surface. The woman, with her heavily ‘Oriental’ made-up eyes, looks at the viewer directly; yet it is a fleeting glance. It is as if the camera’s shutter was clicked just as the woman was passing by, capturing the very instant she glimpsed at the camera; this moment is further emphasized...

    • Perfor/m/ative Writing: Tattoo, Mark, Signature
      (pp. 221-236)
      Sonja Neef

      When Jacques Derrida in the early 1970s sent the written text of his lecture ‘Signature Event Context’ to theAssociation des sociétés de philosophie de langue française, he signed his text and accompanied his signature by remarking: ‘That dispatch should thus have been signed. Which I do, and counterfeit, here. Where? There. J.D.’ His signature is printed in facsimile in the book on the right side of this comment.

      This enactment of the signature as copy gets to the heart of Derrida’s critique of an all too positivist view on a metaphysics of presence. Derrida resists the idea of writing...

  7. Contributors
    (pp. 237-240)
  8. Illustration Acknowledgement
    (pp. 241-241)
  9. Index
    (pp. 242-248)