Thumbs up and down: The cultural technique of thumb-typing

Ido Ramati*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper explores thumb-typing as a cultural technique stemming from the mutual development of typing interfaces and practices. Focusing on the work of the typing fingers, it examines how the assignment of thumbs to be the primary writing digits is an innovation that correlates—and in some respects causes—textual and social changes that are central to digital culture. It argues that thumb-typing embodies recursive relations between behavioral patterns, technological infrastructure, and textual creation. The analysis shows how the invention of the typewriter keyboard introduced the fingers to typing, and how developments of digital media refined the finger-work in interacting with the device, resulting in thumb-typing. The new functionality of the thumb as an executing rather than supporting finger, promotes a novel equivalency and interchangeability in finger employment to typing. This, I propose, problematizes traditional concepts of textuality, its performance, and authorship.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)152-168
Number of pages17
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2021.


  • Cultural techniques
  • digital texts
  • keyboards
  • smartphones
  • thumb
  • typewriters
  • typing
  • typography
  • virtual keyboards


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