In chapter 11 of “What Writing Does and How It Does It” entitled “Speech Acts, Genres, and Activity Systems: How Texts Organize Activity and People, Charles Bazerman discusses the power behind the various documents that make up our society; the meaningful social action contained within these texts and the multiple genres that group the various documents in our society together. According to Bazerman, all documents and texts fit together as “genre sets” within “genre systems” which ultimately make up systems of human activity. In the text Bazerman states that “Understanding the form and flow of texts in genre and activity systems can even help you understand how to disrupt or change the systems by the deletion, addition, or modification of a document type.” This quote sums up the vast power that these documents have on all of us in our day-to-day lives. In this section, Bazerman uses the example of a B.A program which requires a certain number of courses to complete the program. In that example, he explains how students will go through the necessary steps (and most times challenging) in order to receive a particular document. In short, Bazerman highlights the power of documents.
In chapter 9 of Scrolling Forward Levy, in a similar way that Bazerman does in What Writing Does and How It Does It, explores and expands upon the significant power that documents hold. In this section, we explore the idea of how each and every document in our lives are “tailored to operate within a particular sphere of life”. He cites examples such as receipts to regulate sales and transactions, cards to convey certain messages to people depending on the occasion, and to “sing the praises of the world” through lyrics. What Levy argues is that these documents are what constructs our understanding of reality. Levy states that “We create the material, social, symbolic, and spiritual environment we inhabit: we build cities; we tell stories; we manufacture goods; we develop knowledge of the world and ourselves; we fashion individual and group identities and ideologies. In short, we create culture”. These documents and all of their forms are what creates the reality of our society. This relates back to the ideas proposed by Bazerman in that they are describing the overall significance of written texts and documents. Both Levy and Bazerman argue that documents have the power to shape and mold the actions of people and track their progression.
In the following chapter of Scrolling Forward, Levy expands even further on the power of documents and their ability to construct and alter the reality of people. In this section, he recounts the story of house sitting for friends when an earthquake hit and how when he visited his friends home following the earthquake (and what he encountered that would later inspire this chapter of Scrolling Forward). He found on the table a line from the Bible that he was translating into English that read “God has set the earth on a firm foundation so it won’t shake”. What Levy conveys in this section is our reliance on documents, in this instance the Bible, in order to obtain stability in our day to day lives. In this section Levy states “So it isn’t hard to see great documents like the Bible, the Constitution, or the works of Plato and Shakespeare as sources of stability, providing meaning, direction, and reassurance in the face of life’s uncertainties”. Levy’s argument doesn’t only extend to religious texts but to everything in our society. This connects back to the point that Bazerman was making in chapter 11 of What Writing Does. We create and design our lives on the basis of these documents. Like Levy says, it gives us a sense of identity and stability.