This essay proposes the concept of ‘anscription’, and employs it to re-think some of the typical valences of inscription in media theory. The word is derived from the German anschreiben
, which can simply mean, ‘to write up’, but also refers to the specific act, and the set of social relations that come into place, when one writes something up on a blackboard. Not quite encompassed by inscription, it offers an essential counterpart to the term for media-oriented thinkers. The essay draws out this corresponding function through readings of three imagined (but not-quite-imaginary) media, across which emerges a dialectic in the cultural imaginary of inscription. The first comes from the mathematician Norbert Wiener’s description of a mechanism that would translate written text into tactile impressions; the second, from Jacques Derrida’s historical framing of the project of deconstruction in relation to writing systems; and the third, from a thirty-two-page description of an American football game in Don DeLillo’s 1972 novel, End Zone
. Each will offer a different exemplification of the function termed ‘anscription’. Just as significantly, each example presents this function in relation to the technical possibilities of media and articulates it through a theory of the body that is entangled with writing.
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