Voices on display: Handwriting, paper, and authenticity, from museums to social network sites

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The study examines the communicative functions that handwriting (mode) and paper (medium) have come to serve in increasingly digital and intermedial environments. The study begins in museums, where handwritten documents are profusely on display nowadays, and where the display affordances and communicative functions of handwriting are productively explored. Three curatorial display strategies are outlined. These are arranged chronologically, and range from traditional displays, where paper documents are presented inside glass cases, through artistic installations, where documents and handwriting are aesthetically simulated, to interactives, where the audiences/users themselves generate documents on-site. Exploring these strategies illuminates the concept of display as an agentic amalgamation of showing and telling, which produces authentic performances of voice-as-participation. These performances facilitate a move from private to public spheres – in museums and online. The study then proceeds to examine public displays of handwritten documents outside museums, specifically on social network sites. It asks whether and how conceptual sensitivities and sensibilities that originated in displays of handwritten artifacts in museums can shed light on the newer communicative functions of paper in digital environments. It also asks what are the intermedial consequences of the juxtaposition of analogue and digital surfaces. The study points at the current resurrection of handwriting and paper. It argues that the popularity of paper and handwriting results from their evolution into ubiquitous resources for display on and off the web, specifically as authentic bearers of voice that index human action and agency.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1315-1332
Number of pages18
Issue number5-6
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2020


  • Authenticity
  • digital divide
  • discourse
  • handwriting
  • materiality
  • media theory
  • museums
  • paper
  • showing/telling

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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