This workshop idea was born out of a conversation between our crew members: one of us had a typewriter lying around at home, the other had been long eager to give typewriter art a try; one of us noticed how unaccustomed our members were to use the keyboard and mouse, the other felt intimidated by the speed and precision they demonstrated when working on the tablets and iPads.
With the ever-growing use of touchscreens, children are not only not practicing their handwriting skills as much anymore, but also not really learning how to type on actual keyboards. But once we casually snuck in the typewriter in VIVISTOP, it wasn’t long before we could observe how keen they were to engage with it, how frustrated that they cannot erase a mistake! So it was decided: we will take them back in time to the beginnings of typewriting and have them wiggle their fingers a bit. While the typewriter has become obsolete, we hypothesize that — for future creative writers or software developers alike, typewriting skills are here to stay.
Just when we had already made the right contacts and secured a number of typewriters to turn VIVISTOP into a temporary typewriter art facility, we were forced by the worsening pandemic circumstances to move all our activities online. All too excited about this workshop, we put the typewriter-based idea aside until we can be physically in the same space again, and thought of alternative ways to recreate it online.
We started off by showing the kids how versatile and time-consuming typewriter art can be and then introduced them to similar visuals created on the web. ASCII art, the digital buddy of typewriter art, emerged at the end of the 70s when creating images on the computer was still quite limited. Using the web-based app asciiflow all participants could make art on a freely-chosen topic. Still, to stir a bit of interest for the actual typewriter, at the beginning of the workshop we asked them to come up with an absurd sentence for one of us to illustrate using the typewriter in the background. In the meantime, the children breezed through a couple of exercises learning different keyboard shortcuts to help them create their ASCII art. They all seemed to have come already inspired by their own stories and the outcomes were all different!
Using a web-based application definitely sped up the process compared to using the typewriter to achieve the same results. Nevertheless, we are all looking forward to testing the same technique of creating art in analog, on paper, and have children discover the similarities and differences for themselves.
This event was organized as part of our digital workshop series focusing on informatics and the various uses of the internet, computers, and other hardware and software for research, processing, programming, communication, and so on.
Text: Kertu Ilves/Vera Naydenova
Photos: VIVITA Estonia