School of Various Writings
Falmouth University, March/April 2019

Writing at a Distance

A four-week collaborative project culminating in a collection of interactive student writing machines which explore the act of writing

Writing at a Distance was a four-week project run by Lizzie Ridout and Dion Star as part of the BA(Hons) Graphic Design stage two Collaborative Practice module. The aim of the module is to deliver unfamiliar learning activities for students and to present live projects, collaborations and workshops providing provocative interventions into creative thinking.

We set our students the following challenge:

  • Create a writing machine.
  • Write a short text about machine.
  • Create the text using said machine.

This examination of the act of writing culminated in a series of interactive biological, mechanical and digital writing machines looking at themes such as: body, automation, authorship, translation, tangibility and durability, and writing versus speaking.


All communication is concerned with disseminating a message to another. Our culture has developed such that the individual has gradually moved further away from the creation of their own tools of communication, instead relying largely on private companies producing the various platforms through which we communicate (email, WhatsApp, Twitter, SMS, etc…).

This distance from the organisation of these assets also distances us from the control over how we communicate with them.

What happens when we create our own communication devices? How do we define the media with which we write, and how does that media, in turn, define us? What are the effects of the tools and surfaces that we find ourselves using in 2019?

All students took part in the following activities:

  • Lizzie Ridout & Dion Star:
    Biological Writing workshop
    A4 Residency workshop
    Switchboard 1 day project

  • Jerome Fletcher:
    Performance Writing lecture

  • Steve Bladon:
    Telegraph Museum site visit & lecture

  • Will Lancaster:
    Processing workshop & 1 day project

  • Mark Jessett:
    GF Smith, paper talk

  • Phyllida Bluemel:
    Expanded Writing workshop

  • Alex Bassett, Sam Cornwall, Andrew Horner, Julia Lissell, Isabella Stoll, Caitlin Westgate: 
    School of Various Writings alumni breakfast talk

Special thanks to the following individuals for their valuable contribution & general support of the project: Steve Bladon, Telegraph Museum, Phyllida Bluemel, Associate Professor Jerome Fletcher, Mark Jessett, G . F Smith, Will Lancaster, Wieden+Kennedy. 

Big thanks also to the School of Various Writings alumni: Alex Bassett, Sam Cornwall, Andrew Horner, Julia Lissell, Isabella Stoll & Caitlin Westgate.

Paper supplied by G . F Smith. 

© Various Writings. 2019