For thousands of years, we have used writing as a way to get around the limitations of face-to-face, one-on-one communication. As a result, a constantly evolving ecology of writing systems and conventions has long been a key aspect of human information exchange. ScratchTap is dedicated to examining this ecology, with a special focus on the issues that arise when written information meets the Internet. Along the way, we encounter topics in linguistics, graphemics, anthropology, information science, semiotics and philosophy.
References aren’t often listed in articles (in the interest of keeping the content accessible and avoiding pedantry), but if you’d like any bibliographic information, just ask.
About the author
Of course, documents aren’t necessarily textual—his dissertation research focuses on self-portraiture as a kind of document. But written language holds a special place in his heart. He’s been bookish since childhood, and as early as middle school he took up creative writing. He became interested in world languages at a young age as well, eventually majoring in Spanish at Marquette University and going on to earn his MA in Hispanic studies at NYU Madrid. While conducting his research there, Tim became fascinated by the relationship between written and spoken language—and how the visual aspects of written language can contribute to meaning. He wrote his thesis on the attitudes and practices surrounding writing in all caps on the Internet.
See Tim’s CV for more information on his academic work and accomplishments.
When Tim isn’t writing for ScratchTap, he writes fiction and poetry, paints pictures, runs ultramarathons and practices classical guitar. You can read some of his fiction on his website, see his paintings on his Etsy store and follow his running progress on his running blog. For more, you can visit his website or follow him on Twitter.
Tim offers the information on ScratchTap for free, and he puts a lot of time into researching and writing. If you’d like to surprise Tim with something special, consider purchasing him something off his Amazon Wish List.
What’s with the name?
The earliest writing that we know of was done on turtle shells as a form of divination. Ancient Chinese clairvoyants scratched symbols into the shells (and sometimes bones) before burning them, searching for answers.
Several thousand years later, we’re still searching for answers. But instead of scratching our questions into shells and bones, we tap them out on laptops and mobile phones.
Scratching and tapping—over the years we’ve developed two very different ways of doing quite the same thing.