how is technology a writerly text?

According to Barthes, the goal of a writerly text is “to make the reader no longer a consumer but a producer of the text” (S/Z, 4).

USERS AS READERS AS PRODUCERS

All participants of any technology are referred to as “users”. The users are the ones who interact with the technology and who experience it firsthand. As with many texts, users may communicate and form communities. (Networks are a particular type of technology whose explicit goal is to create that community.) Inherent in the word “user” is a conception of the reader as active – technology is inherently  writerly text since it requires the participation of its users; users can even dramatically change the nature of the technology itself. As a result, the tech industry is very focused on user experience. Any technology that interfaces with users is, by definition, a writerly text.

IN THE REAL WORLD

An example: Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks are an extreme example of a way in which users can literally change the Internet, shaping it to their own collective beliefs. DDoS attacks are only one of many ways to do this…

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Technology, at its very core, is always meant to be used, and that usage will always change technology, often despite authorial intentions. In this sense, it is a writerly text despite itself.

On the other hand, some newer technologies are aware of the “user as producer” phenomenon, and harness it. For example, Google’s GoogleDoc system uses data about words while crawling the web for web searches in order to learn words – essentially, it is a spell checker by popular consensus, not by any dictionary at all.

HOW IS THE MEMEX A WRITERLY TEXT?

A key point of the Memex is for a user to expand and annotate their notes. Each Memex thus becomes customized by the user, a product of its interactions with its owner.

Better yet, users can pass information to each other; not only is each user engaging with the text in an active process; users engage with each other, through the text. The text builds a Network defined almost exclusively by the readers (users).

If technologies are writerly texts, how do we star them?

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