Writing With(out) Pain: Computing Injuries and the Role of the Body in Writing Activity

Publication Title

Computers and Composition

Publication Date


Document Type





writing, pain, computer, role of the body


Rhetoric and Composition


This article uses the lens of computer writing injuries to explore writing as an embodied activity. We use philosopher Mark Johnson's five-part definition of embodiment to develop an analysis that examines the physical, flesh-and-blood aspects of writing in addition to the social and cultural aspects of embodied activity. With this framework, we show the limits of purely technological solutions to writing injuries (like ergonomic keyboards) and explore the difficulties of including somatic training in the writing classroom. Rather than prescribing a single solution, we propose that these injuries require multifaceted infrastructural changes and point to the benefits of approaching writing with mindfulness. We conclude by suggesting ways that writing instructors and scholars can use this framework to rethink the role of the body in writing activity.The basis of all our forms of understanding is that given to us by our body's interactions with the world. Somatic understanding precedes all others, and persists while our symbolic forms of understanding develop, and it shapes those forms of understanding in profound and subtle ways. Understanding human cognition, then, requires our careful attentiveness to the body that is their foundation. We have attended to the body's role in our cultural lives and especially in education far too little.