I’m working on becoming a better teacher, scholar, writer, reader, and all-around decent person; a significant part of this is working on recognizing that behind the texts that I read (and sometimes grade) there is a person behind it whose story converges and diverges with the narrative I (and other readers) assume of them. For instance, the students in the sections I teach bring with them scores of writing experiences that are sometimes (or perhaps, often) made invisible by the various writing I ask them to do. Nevertheless, I’m working on paying better attention to the varied experiences of students’ various ways of doing writing. In this endeavor, I am surrounded by supportive teacherscholars but my own contribution to our work involves an exploration of embodied moments of composing and a digital community that identifies with the physicality of writing materials. Specifically, I’m working to examine digital stories that attend to the aural and tactile scenes of composing by self-identified “clackers”.
Clackers, in my research, are people who create and/or use and/or are enthusiasts for mechanical keyboards. These mechanical keyboards are highly customizable. The enthusiasts can vary the color, material (i.e. metal or plastic), and spacing of their keys; however, mechanical keyboards differ most notably in their keystroke apparatus, otherwise known as switch. While traditional keyboards use a rubber membrane to return each key, mechanical keyboards use springs. These switches come in varying degrees of tactile resistance; furthermore, this use of springs imparts a clacking noise that accompanies each keystroke. This sound is where the name “clackers” comes from. For my research, I’m looking at an online clacker community where participants share techniques for modification and various “builds” but also support each other through stories. These stories range from identifying fellow clackers by following the noise, searching out rare switches and keys, and describing the touch and the sound of their keyboards.
By attending to these embodied scenes of composing I hope to tease out (or move towards) a paradigm of multimodality that attends to the (im)material flow across modes. That is to say, how do writing materials shape the perception of composing and how does our perception of composing shape the rhetorical, material, and technological choices that writers feel they have at their disposal. I find this work fascinating because it pokes at the assumptions that I’ve made in reaction to writing (e.g. “why has a writer done this or that”) but it also leaves room to talk about the sound and touch that is already present in the writing process. Above all else, I do this work because, to me, the person behind the text is the most interesting aspect of writing.
Chris Scheidler is a wannabe foodie, an aspiring runner, and a second year student in the MA program.