Analysing My Experience With Calligraphy

Two weeks ago I blogged my first serious attempt at Japanese calligraphy. As mentioned by Ellis et al (2011), I must compare and contrast my personal experience from my previous blog post with already exisiting research. The main point from my previous post is that I found it much easier using a brush, ink and a piece of paper than using an app to teach myself the different strokes and techniques that are needed to learn how to write Japanese calligraphy.

I think this ideal correlates directly with how I, as an individual, learn. I’ve always been a very kinesthetic and spatial learner. Audio books and people talking directly towards me when they’re trying to teach me something new is completely useless. I’ve found that I always need something to follow along with, or a book to take down notes. The physical act of writing something down has always made it much easier for me to remember particular techniques when learning a new skill.

Everybody obviously has a more dominant learning style but I put mine down to how I was predominately taught in school. Laptops/ computers were rarely used at both my primary and high school. It wasn’t until we were given laptops in year 9 that I really relied on technology to learn in the classroom. In primary school, we were lucky to have a computer shared between two classrooms and we had two computer labs in the whole school. One in the library, and one next to it. The only time I ever remember using either was when we were learning to type without looking at the keyboard, and to make a very basic website. We used the labs in high school a little bit more, but not much. Our classroom learning relied very much on pen, paper and a textbook. So, I believe that by learning like this during the majority of my primary and secondary education, I still find it much easier to learn in a hands-on way compared to using an app on a hand-held device. I bet if you looked through the bag I take to uni, you’d find a handful of pens in the bottom of it and a notebook – I write down notes and ideas for every single assignment I’ve had to do during my four years of UOW.

In 2014, a UK based printing and mailing company called Docmail conducted a study that determined that one in three of the 2000 respondents hadn’t written anything by hand in the previous six months. Edouard Gentaz, professor of developmental psychology at the University of Geneva and an expert on writing argues that “Handwriting is a complex task which requires various skills – feeling the pen and paper, moving the writing implement, and directing movement by thought…”. Claire Bustarret, a specialist on codex manuscripts agrees with Gentaz by saying “Paper allows much greater graphic freedom…”. She further describes the ability to write on both sides of a sheet of paper, manipulating and utilising it’s potential three-dimensional form and being able to physically track any changes made (Bustarret, 2014). These are all practices that can’t be achieved through apps and other software. It has also been found that drawing a letter by hand improves subsequent recognition (Gentaz, 2014). It takes years to master the motor skill. While this argument relies more on the handwriting vs typing debate, I found it very beneficial when it came to comparing the two different methods I tested out. Even though I was still technically writing on the app, it was so difficult to control the pen strokes as things like pressure aren’t at the forefront of your mind.

When starting my research on traditional Japanese calligraphy, almost every article outlined the importance of the brush, ink and even paper you should use. Hardly anybody spoke about mixing technology in with such a worshipped form of traditional art. The video below explores the idea of a robot mimicking its masters brush work. The video details that as the Japanese population is ageing and birth rates are slowing down, there’s a risk of traditional practices like calligraphy not being passed down as the gap between the young and old continues to expand.

All-in-all, the autoethnographic style of writing has allowed me to narrow down why I favour the analog technique when compared to the technological one. Ellis et al (2012) state that writing can be therapeutic as it allows for authors to make sense of themselves and the experience they are detailing. This explanation allowed me to understand that there wasn’t anything wrong with the app I used, but more so with how I take in and understand actions and processes.

References:

Chemin, A. (2014). ‘Handwriting vs typing: is the pen still mightier than the keyboard?’. The Guardian. <https://www.theguardian.com/science/2014/dec/16/cognitive-benefits-handwriting-decline-typing>

Ellis, C., Adams, T., & Bochner, A. (2011). ‘Autoethnography: An Overview’. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 12(1). < http://dx.doi.org/10.17169/fqs-12.1.1589>

Hays, J. (2013). JAPANESE CALLIGRAPHY | Facts and Details. Factsanddetails.com <http://factsanddetails.com/japan/cat20/sub129/item2886.html&gt;

3 comments

  1. I can related how you linked, dominant learning styles to primary school. I remember the lacked of digital technology in my primary school, the only way to access a computer was in the “computer room”. I rarely write with pen and paper now, in uni at it has made me realize that I literally cannot spell, sophisticated words without spellchecking on computers. It would be interesting to look at the future generations of primary education such as how they implementation of digital technology with teaching. Perhaps in future generations typing will become to primary method of teaching young children to write.

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  2. I love how you’ve identified your own personal preference – a physical brush and ink – and directly linked it to your school learning background. It’s easy to see why this approach did not work for you, but by contrasting this with the technological movement of the 21st century, you’ve also explained why there might be a market for such an app – it’s directed at those who are more native to learning technology.
    Would you say that by studying calligraphy through both methods has led to an epiphany into yourself and your learning methods? It’s how I’ve interpreted your blog post, and how you’ve set the audience up to understand your investigation, I believe.

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