Artifact Politics – Pen


Few objects, especially those without vital necessities, have been rooted in the everyday lives of humans for as long as the pen. One of the most simplistic of all methods of recording and sharing information, the pen has inescapable political qualities in itself. Being used consistently for well over a century, it has impacted the lives of every person that possesses the basic skills of literacy.

When in use, the pen can be used to express and infinite amount of facts, opinions, images, and emotions. The person creating the words or pictures in a way has an authoritarian rule over others; the artist or author decides what others see and what others have the opportunity to learn. Obviously, the final creations are not the only source of information taken in by the recipient. Therefore, unlike the output, the intake of information is not solely authoritarian.

It is easy to see some of the daily effects that such an important artifact has all over the world, but there are plenty unseen to the common person. For instance, there is always the subject of agreements. Verbal agreements are made all the time, but there is no real weight behind them; there is nothing to back up those agreements. Whenever an official, legal agreement of any type needs to be made, inking a signature is the only way to carry out the process. Ranging from contracts for professional athletes to official laws and agreements between international governments, the pen holds the power to make it happen.

In instances where legalities are far less essential, the pen is still a tool of choice for a large amount of composers of documents. Families or friends who want to communicate can always use the means of the internet or a mobile phone, but some like to add a more personal touch. Even with the use of email becoming more prominent, approximately one-hundred fifty-eight billion letters were still sent in 2013 (2). For those with a desire to get in touch in a more connected way, writing letters has remained a popular decision. Also, before recent advancements in technology that have helped spawn inventions such as the internet, it was not as easy to keep personal communication with those not near geographically.

As previously stated, the creations of authors can be seen as authoritarian when it is only one author distributing work. When history was being recorded by large masses of respected and renowned human beings, the authoritarian aspect of those works being put out was lost upon those reading. There was now a large selection of works from which to choose. With such a large pool of works, a democratic type of historical recording took over. The words displayed in history books and taught to the youth are not necessarily the exact facts of the past. Rather, those words are rough facts that have been selected to be passed on to younger generations. The author did not choose which representation of the past survived, the people did. The words written in pen have paved the paths for the future. What we as humans know today as history is a democratic selection of works representing the past from the viewpoint of others.

The pen has always been a vital part of everyday functions, and it still holds that position today. It is also fundamentally political. Whether it is being used for international government communication, or communication between family members a few area codes apart, the pen is unable to be removed from its political dimensions.


(1)“The Evolution of Classroom Technology” 18 April 2011

(2)“Number of Letters Mailed Each Year.” Statistic Brain

One thought on “Artifact Politics – Pen”

  1. I thought your choice of topic was very unique and you pointed out a lot of things that I would have never thought of. I especially liked how you pointed out that verbal agreements are made all the time, but in order to carry out any legal processes, a signature is required. I thought it was very creative!


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