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Why Pencils? A background to the Pencil Shavings Project

Posted by Jennifer Dawson on July 4, 2009

People, it turns out, are passionate about pencils. The Internet hosts countless (okay, 36,600,000) pencil pages, many of which are devoted to pencil facts, reviews, and art, not just the requisite e-commerce sites hocking pencils and related products.

Reviews of particular brands of pencils receive more comments from a surprisingly active community of pencil aficionados than many postings on topics of wider interest and greater social relevance. A review of PaperMate's Mirado Black Warrior pencil? 43 comments. An American Association for the Advancement of Science posting on swine flu vaccinations? 0 comments.

Perhaps it's the non-threatening nature of the pencil that makes it an attractive subject. It's not scary or revolutionary. You can hold fervent opinions on pencils and engage in heated debate with others without the risk of truly offending anyone. Maybe it's the simplicity and accessibility of the topic. You can really get a handle on pencils, if you'll forgive the pun. They are tactile, utilitarian, universally available and photograph well. Or maybe there are a bunch of people in cyberspace who thrive on irony: they're all getting a good giggle out of occupying bandwidth to discuss the luddite's choice of communication tool.

Whatever the reason for its prominence on the 'net, the popularity of the pencil means I've got a lot of grist for the mill...or wood for the sharpener.

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