Writing is, according to Vilém Flusser, “a way of thinking” (Gesten, 1991, p. 47; translated from the German) and, as a physical movement coupled with a tool but without any causally satisfactory explanations, a gesture. As such, writing is a cultural program and by no means in our DNA. The gesture, which in this sense is understood as symbolic, is explained as an operation that makes it possible to organize (and adjust) thoughts in the form of written characters. The consciousness of the writer is the consciousness of a person who thinks historically. Western culture, which expresses itself by utilizing an alphanumeric written code, is thus characterized in its entirety by the gesture of writing.
Not only have Western people shaped the culture of writing as an expression of their attunement; rather, it was only possible to shape it in this way because writing had for its part shaped the forms of human thinking, that is, cultural thinking. This then led to the entire Western cultural tradition see itself as a culture of writing, and it would never have developed in the same way without the gesture of writing.
Writing, which both historically (Mesopotamia) and etymologically (graphein, related to “dig”; scribere, related to “scratch”) can be explained more from scratching on a surface than from merely constructing different forms on that surface, thus has an almost ontological character for the attunement of a culture. The factors that make the gesture of writing possible – surface, tool, characters, conventions, rules, the existence of a system, a message, and writing itself (purely in the sense of an activity) – represent the indispensability of gestural expression. At the same time, they are conditions of the non-thingness of the information expressed.
Original article by Martin Conrads