Extending Integrationist theory through the creation and analysis of a multimedia work of art, Postcard From Tunis
by Sally Pryor

Full PhD Thesis (PDF file; 4.2 MB)

This thesis consists of the production of an interactive computer-based artwork, an analysis of its research outcomes, and an exploration of the theoretical issues that influenced the artistic practice.

The artwork, Postcard From Tunis, is an Integrationist exploration of writing and its transformation at the human–computer interface. It is set in a personal portrait of Tunis, a city with a rich history of writing.

The thesis starts with the theory of writing. The conventional view of real writing as representation of speech is shown to have serious limitations, which are addressed by Roy Harris’s radical reconsideration of writing. This approach is based on the Integrationist theory of human communication as the contextualized integration of activities by means of signs.

User interaction with Postcard From Tunis, particularly rollover activity, creates a variety of dynamic signs that cannot be theorised by a bipartite theory of signs and that transcend a distinction between the verbal and the non-verbal altogether. These signs include kinetic and dynamically reflexive written signs that indicate in writing, but not in words, how the user is to read them.

Postcard From Tunis offers users who are not Arabic-literate the perception that there are actually no fixed boundaries between writing and pictures, as both are based on spatial configurations, and it suggests that the question of what is writing will differ from person to person (and moment to moment), depending on the macrosocial, biomechanical and circumstantial aspects of the activities integrated.

Postcard From Tunis both extends Integrationist theory into writing and human–computer interaction and also uniquely articulates this integration of activities in a way that is impossible with written words on paper. The research asserts the validity of the Integrationist theory of writing, language and human communication and of uncoupling these from spoken words. A framework is outlined for future Integrationist research into icons and human-computer interaction.

Sally Pryor

Thanks to Eric Timewell for the excellent graphic design of the final thesis.