Sunday, August 22, 2004

String Bags

Dobres recounts a series of studies conducted by M.A. MacKenzie that constitute a biography of string bags in central New Guinea. MacKenzie studies both the production and use of these bags and explores their social significance.

It's tough to do a similar sort of study in the modern context because we aren't producers. We may produce the meaning of artifacts but we aren't generally responsible for their design or manufacture. Most of our artifacts come shrink-rapped and ready to use.

There is one exception to this store bought materiality: documents. In documents we still see a place where we must learn the technologies of production and the methods of interpretation. Similar to MacKenzie's string bags, documents are truly democratic as they are produced by all.

There are any number of directions for this argument. I suppose I could look at democratic technologies, or reading response, or the book industry, or even notions of genre. At least I've found an intellectual bridge to all of the book/reading material I need to know for my comp!


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