ABSTRACT

Writing has had transformative powers on human cognition, society, and organizations to an extent that now we cannot imagine a world without writing. At the core of writing’s power are four mechanismsobjectifying, addressing, refl ecting, and specifying. They are central to the expression of emotions and development of relationships-personal, in the case of Virginia Woolf, or professional, in the case of the Hudson’s Bay Company. These mechanisms are also key to understanding how scientists such as Einstein and Cartan, Descartes, and Madame du Châtelet have been able to develop knowledge with collaborators who were often in different cities or countries, and how employees and managers in complex distributed organizations such as the Hudson’s Bay Company were able to coordinate though often never meeting and exchanging only one letter per year. Because they allow for the expression of emotions and the development of knowledge, these four mechanisms-objectifying, addressing, refl ecting, and specifying-were essential in the development of communities such as the Republic of Letters. Through their letters, scholars such as Mersenne and Madame du Châtelet were at the center of the European intellectual and scientifi c life without having to travel much and, in the case of Madame du Châtelet, while offi cially being an outsider to the scientifi c community.