At our AWP panel on experimental writing this past February a lively conversation arose about the experiments technology and new media are making possible. In Volume 17, Joe Bonomo writes about a childhood memory from fractured perspectives that include those seen through the lens of Wikipedia, Twitter, the Track Changes function on a Word document. He writes:
Near the swing set during recess. N. on the swings. She swung and her plaid skirt lifted and I saw her sky-blue underwear. She squealed.
Mon Sep 20 11:01:23 2010 via web
Joe Bonomo is remembering N. on the swing set and that thing that happened.
4 hours ago clear
st&ing nr d swing set durin recess @ st andrew d apostle. N. s on d swings. she pumps her lgz n grips d chain n leans bac n d wind n her hair streams n she swings upward n her plaid skirt lifts +I C her sky-blue undies.
Later in the essay he adds:
Tweets, updates, emails, texts, confessional, autobiographical. Montaigne in his tower; me at my computer. Have we reached the saturation point? Ur-stories are collapsing on top of other ur-stories. We must be made to matter. Will the future of personal writing be composed of images, flash, tinier paragraphs, infinitely more pixels, infinitely more memory, smaller screens of comprehension?
Though the essay makes use of these ever-smaller screens of comprehension, it also celebrates the search for a holistic understanding all these screens complicate, but don’t necessarily obliterate. Bonomo quotes Degas: “It is very well to copy what one sees; it’s much better to draw what one has retained in one’s memory. It is a transformation in which imagination collaborates with memory.”
Post-modernisms, deconstructionism, so many other theoretical –isms have insisted our reality has become increasingly fractured, mutable, and uncertain. Literature only reminds us that all an illusion. Is it delusional to think the chaos of new media in collaboration with imagination and memory might provide a way to make our lives matter again? Is it naïve to believe in a saturation point where fragmented perspectives coalesce into a fixed meaning?