Hermann von Helmholtz-Zentrum für Kulturtechnik

Zentralinstitut der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

Notational Iconicity. On the Potential in the Visuality of Texts as a Cultural Technique and Theory of Reading

Sybille Krämer

It is a truism in the humanities that how we handle symbols follows the pattern of the bifurcation of language and image. This division between the discursive and the iconic considers script as language and not as an image. This project seeks to develop a fundamental theory and to revise this language-centred concept of script. Put simply, our aim is to disentangle reflections on script from the influence of its origins in the oral/written debate. We shall achieve this by (1) rehabilitating a fundamental visual-iconic dimension in script, which we call »notational iconicity«. This is a dimension that both the representational potential of script and text make use of. What this potential represents becomes clear when script is examined in its function as a cultural technique. The cognitive and communicative role of notational iconicity manifests itself in the cultural technique of reading. The visually accessible surface of texts, their texture, can be seen as the score in reading performance. For this reason, we will (2) investigate how the conditions of notational iconicity change in electronic hypertext in relation to the classic text.