Paper identity, diffused identities

Last week in class we discussed the ways that, literally, articles of paper define us. Without a birth certificate, yo cannot get an ID, a passport, the very real ways in which we define ourselves as individuals through the physical medium of paper. These articles form a factual narrative tracking our lives, from birth to death certificates, with all of the important developmental zeniths noted by driver’s license, diplomas, practitioner licenses, et cetera. From a certain point of view, we are not terrifically different from Frederico de la Fey, whose life is contained and defined by Plascencia’s pages. Even Merced de Papel has a great deal in common with her readership: find yourself in a politically unstable country and your passport becomes your flesh, a constant badge that protects you from dissolving in all manners of unpleasant ways.

These kinds of quasi-philosophical, quasi-literary discussions really give credence to the metacontextual conceits of People of Paper, that these characters continue to live beyond what is being represented on page. Were we to be without familiar location and identification, to others we would be just as much nonentities as the EMF appear in their lead sheds, filled with nothingness thoughts. Yet internally we continue to exist, do we not? Paper defines us to the outside world, the public sphere, but it is not literally our flesh. Without identification, we cease to exist in the collective, but we do not literally dissolve as Merced de Papel – rather, we walk off the border of the page, more akin to Frederico de la Fey and Merced in the end. Which, conceptually, has a great deal in common with the Google Doc experience and class consciousness.

What Google Doc manages to do is erase the paper, the physical means of identification we have as students, from our critical experiences. The normal process of homework and critical writing involves working as an individual student, submitting a work that is of our creation and a certifiable proof of our thought. It is kept in that form for as long as it needs to be, immutable save sparse chances at rewrites after a selected due date, and easily checked for plagiarism to verify the work’s, and subsequently the writer’s, individual worth. Google Doc, however, updates itself constantly: every time you or another author saves the work produced is displayed in public. If you are a kind of author that writes in stream and edits in post, your fluid thought process is visible to the class.

However, if simultaneously working with more than a few students on the document, the fluid thought remain anonymous. The voices are disparate and one simultaneously. Without paper, aside from stylistic differences we as individual authors diffuse to the anonymous reader, but we do not cease to exist. The voice continues, but it becomes the voice of many. Aside from the editing documentation visible to the creator, the readership-authorship dynamic is not linearly connected as previous because we write on a space more mutable than paper, something “south and off the page, [which leaves] no footprints” (Plascencia 245). In the fluid text, the author does not cease to exist in the same way we debate whether or not the People of Paper cease to exist beyond the page. The author instead becomes authors, the collective, and Google Doc is not the absence of thought but an ever-changing thought mass generated by multiple students. Suddenly, Cameroon’s bee paraphernalia does not seem like such a non-sequitur.


~ by benjyblanco on April 5, 2010.

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