Welcome to the Pre-Conference Conversations for the New England American Studies Conference. We're writing about the things we'll talk about the conference--join the conversation!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Facebook: A 21st Century Scrapbook

While researching scrapbook as an autobiographical medium, I encountered the following Salman Rushdie quote:

"But human beings do not perceive things whole; we are not gods but wounded creatures, cracked lenses, capable only of fractured perceptions.  Partial beings, in all the sense of that phrase.  Meaning is a shaky edifice we build out of scraps, dogmas, childhood injuries, newspaper articles, chance remarks, old films, small victories, people hated, people loved; perhaps it is because our sense of what is the case is constructed from such inadequate materials that we defend it so fiercely, even to the death."

This is, in my mind, the perfect summary of the autobiographical act, a collection of odds and ends, bits and pieces, the random scraps that are stored in one's memory and assigned a degree of importance.  Every bit as significant are those pieces that are are dismissed.  What is held onto and what is cast away, each is a vital part of the construction of one's self-curated self-history.

These parts of a whole were, for centuries, recorded on paper, a combination of text and imagery.  Today, they are uploaded via mobile phones to Facebook.

In October I will speaking about the historical continuity between scrapbooks and Facebook, and time permitting will also venture into the following topics, all of which are in the paper from which I am drawing my presentation:

•The ever changing nature of "new media"

•The role of print culture, mass publication, the rise of "scrap"

•Cellophane tape and the opportunities it offered for preservation or memories

•Polaroid vs. Instagram

If anyone is interested in discussing any of these topics further, feel free to get in touch with me.--Lucinda Hannington

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