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Does Writing Have a Future?$
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Vilém Flusser

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780816670222

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816670222.001.0001

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(p.11) Inscriptions
Does Writing Have a Future?

Vilém Flusser

Mark Poster

Nancy Ann Roth

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter explains how writing began by drawing on the fields of etymology and archaeology. Writing comes from the Latin scribere, meaning “to scratch,” while the Greek graphein means “to dig.” Accordingly, writing was originally a gesture of digging into an object with something, so making use of a wedge-shaped tool (a stylus). Writing is no longer done this way. Now, it usually involves putting pigment on a surface. We write on-scriptions rather than in-scriptions—and we usually write styluslessly. If we call on archaeology rather than etymology, it becomes uncertain whether inscription actually preceded writing on a surface. The myth of the creation of mankind, one of the foundational myths of the West, establishes the etymological precedence of engraving over painting. The engraving of information into objects has not been modern for a long time. Today we are surrounded not by fired clay tiles or chiseled tablets, but by printed material, pages of paper marked with color. Instead of inscriptions, we have notations.

Keywords:   writing, etymology, archaeology, digging, inscription, engraving, painting

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