Tuesday, March 13, 2007

are you real?

I recently stumbled on a blog entry in which the author, Danah Boyd, muses over the idea that the way to make things real is to make them public. Boyd gives a classic example of Pan’s Labyrinth—a magical extra-dimension that seems to float between imagination and reality—that begs the question: if there are no witnesses to validate what took place, how do we know it really happened? If a tree falls in the woods and there’s no one around to hear it, does it makes a sound?

Boyd says the internet and social networking sites allow us to easily make the most intimate experiences public and therefore real—by changing your relationship status to “single,” by posting blogs and IMs, by requesting for someone to be your friend. But she also wonders how “real” online experiences truly are. How much of it is staged? Even YouTube videos are fuzzy at best. (think lonelygirl15)

I’m an avid internet user, and indeed, what draws me so much to the web is the mere theatricality of it all. You can paint yourself in the best light. A beautiful impression for the world to see—and comment on. It’s always a work in progress and if you make a mistake, you can just delete it. For the writer, writing is all about process, and the many different versions it takes you to get to a certain point. The end result is just part of it. But because of the very nature of technology and the discreet delete button, nobody else ever witnesses that process. The user/reader/browser only ever gets to see that final edition. You will never see the rough draft of this blog posting, for example. It doesn’t exist, but for in my memory.

It brings to mind another musing I heard on the radio recently—a radio show about a single poem by a renowned poet. The poem, which was written decades ago before computers and typewriters, has about 15 different manuscript versions in existence. You can see on the paper, in the first draft through to the final published copy, exactly how the author came up with the words and rhythm and how they morphed with each draft. How the idea of loss first started with losing a pen and turned into, by the 10th draft or so, losing a lover. To see that kind of thought process is rare these days.

So what happens to all of those deleted words and thoughts? Are they gone forever in some virtual recycle bin? Were they ever even real?

1 comment:

Eva the Deadbeat said...

Very interesting musings indeed - I am a recent internet addict and it is hard to imagine my life without it these days - still, I do wonder how "real" it is and am not sure what to make of the "friends" i have made all over the world through it - strange and fascinating...

(plus, I love the filM labyrinth whose pic you used!)

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