Purdue University Graduate School
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Writing with Letterpress: A Case Study for Research on Human-Technology Interaction

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posted on 2021-12-18, 22:14 authored by Devon S CookDevon S Cook

This research uses the composition practices of three experienced letterpress typesetters as a case study for the development of a methodology for studying human-technology interaction. This methodology tries to take seriously the implications that theories of materiality have for empirical research in writing and technology.

Data was collected from three experienced typesetters, each of whom was observed setting type for two hours, then interviewed for 1 ½ to 2 hours, using observation footage to inform interview questions. Interview transcripts and observation footage were then coded for observable material intra-actions and the influences that characterized those actions and brought them into being.

Data analysis produced six desiderata, or desires for design, that emerged as driving the composition process: 1) a desire to use the technology, 2) a desire for efficiency, 3) a desire to imitate/defer to historical practices, 4) a desire for letter-level correctness, 5) attention to aesthetics, and 6) a desire to communicate.


Degree Type

  • Doctor of Philosophy


  • English

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Michael Salvo

Additional Committee Member 2

Patricia Sullivan

Additional Committee Member 3

Thomas Rickert

Additional Committee Member 4

Jennifer Bay