Is writing merely a way of recording language by visible marks, or does it have its own linguistic function? From Assyrian time on, the bulk of writing is in administrative and economic documents, mainly in the form of lists.
In referring to the "scriptural economy" Michel De Certeau (The Practice of Everyday Life) points to writing as a "triumphal conquista of the economy, that has, since the beginning of the ' modern age' given itself the name of writing."(p. 131) For de Certeau, the installation of the scriptural apparatus is the triumph of a modern discipline." In modern western culture the practice of writing is a myth which gives symbolic articulation to the Occidental ambition to compose its history, and thus to compose history itself." Here, as elsewhere, de Certeau seeks to find archaic processes of resistance within the discipline itself, in this case, forms of orality, and to rehabilitate reading as a nomadic poaching.
De Certeau describes writing as "the concrete activity that consists in constructing, on its own, blank space (un espace propre ) --the page-- a text that has the power over the exteriority from which it has been isolated." (p. 134) (emphasis added)see textual space
see also printing.
Edmund Husserl describes writing as virtual communication. It makes communications possible without immediate or mediate personal address. By its means, the socialization of humanity is elevated to a new stage. see virtuality.
The blank page is a space of its own that delimits a place of production for the subject. "In front of his blank page, every child is already put in the position of the industrialist, the urban planner, or the Cartesian philosopher -- the position of having to manage a space that is his own and distinct fron all others and in which he can excercise his own will."..." Then a text is constructed in this place. On the blank page an itinerant, progressive, and regulated practice -- a "walk" -- composes the artefact of another "world that is not received but rather made. Thirdly, this space of formalization refers to a reality from which it has been distinguished in order to change it. "The scriptural enterprise transforms or retains within itself what it receives from the outside and creates internally the instruments for an appropriation of the external space...It is capitalist and conquering, as is the scientific laboratory, industry, and the modern city -- a circumscribed space in which the will to collect and store up an external population and the will to make the countryside conform to urban models are realized. (p.135)
(This description is very close to Heidegger's descriptions of technology)as well as to Deleuze and Guattari's concept of the " work" model.
How does this definition of writing compare to Derrida's? Derrida would want to remove writing from the arbitration of the "espace propre". He points to "keeping the outside out...as the inaugural gesture of logic' itself, of good 'sense' insofar as it accords with the self identity of that which is: being is what it is, the outside is outside and the inside inside. Writing must thus return to what it should never have ceased to be: an accessory, and accident, an excess" (Disseminations, p.128 emphasis original)
Derrida and other poststructuralist writers take a reflexive turn when they point out that writing communicates by means of the very thing it is talking about. (see Barbara Johnson, "Writing" in Critical Terms for Literary Study) This self-awareness functions as an inaugural gesture very much like modernist strategies in the arts. In Writing Degree Zero, Roland Barthes observed that the founders of literary modernism like Flaubert and Mallarmé, constructed the object literature in the very act of announcing its death. This apparent contradiction leads Barthes to describe a tension between the concept of Literature and the concept of Textuality. It leads Derrida to proclaim the existence of a logic wholly other than that of identity: a logic of difference, of différence in Derridean terms (meaning both deferment and difference), a logic of supplément (both addition and substitute) which is not only the logic of writing, but is a logic that can only exist in writing.
In his three major books of 1967, Writing and Difference, Of Grammatology, and Speech and Phenomena, Derrida reevaluates the founding binary oppositions of Western Philosophy, mind vs body, good vs. evil, man vs woman, presence vs. absence by means of this logic of the supplement. The most famous opposition that he brings out is that between speech and writing. Speech is seen as immediacy, presence, life, and identity, while writing is seen as deferment, absence, death, and difference. But by observing that the Western tradition is filled with writings that privelege speech, he can simultaneously point out that speech is ultimately structured like writing, and that writing enjoys an equal but more covert priveleging to speech.
For poststructuralist thought, these turns introduce a "space" into reading, an espacement de la lecture as Mallarmé called it, which gives signifying functions to materiality, silence, space, and conflict within texts. It "liberates the signifier."
It is George Landow's contention that hypertext blurs the distinction between what is "inside" and what is "outside" a text.