Wysocki’s “awaywithwords”

Wysocki, Anne Frances. “awaywithwords: On the possibilities in unavailable designs.” Computers and Composition 22. 2005. 55-62.

Keywords: Affordances; Available design; Image; New media; Space; Visual representation; Visual rhetoric.

Quotes: “Under what conditions would you accept a [graduate research] paper handwritten in crayon on colored construction paper?”

“My desire in this writing, then, is to push at the edges of where Gunther Kress (2005) directs our atttention in many of his writings.”

“Did you read my title as ‘a way with words’ or ‘away with words’? The potential ambiguity, I think, shows how a particular visual space has become natural to how we now read.”


In this essay, Wysocki confronts the notions of natural properties and inherent constraints of materialities that we marshal in writing and composition. Like water, which may not seem to have the affordance of a weapon but which certainly was used as such by white police officers during the civil rights movement, the materialistic of our writing practices are inseparable from our social context. As a part of rhetorical situations that also include context, purpose, and audience, communication strategies also include material choices that a writer should make informed decisions about. Such informed decisions would seem to complicate “higher order” concerns such as content (invention) and organization (arrangement) by moving beyond merely considering what is pertinent and in what sequence it should be explored.

Wysocki looks at the development of the spacing of words on the page in Middle Age Irish monasteries(via Paul Sanger’s study, 1997) to suggest a correspondence between such spacing alongside a shift from a social and communal reading of texts to private and individual reading. Such a shift, she notes, also paralleled broader shifts toward individualism and individual political responsibility, though Wysocki is mindful of avoiding the technological determinism she perceives from both Sanger and, more broadly, McLuhan.

Finally, Wysocki pushes for a deeper understanding, awareness and sense of possibility in how computer technologies intersect with notions of image and visuality in texts.

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