Friday, June 5, 2009

Durable Ephemera

Perhaps my favorite course to teach is Rhetoric and Public Life, perhaps because it's the first class that I could design to reflect a singularly coherent vision. While other colleagues in my department teach the course as well, all of us addressing common objectives, each brings a unique spin to our respective versions of COMM 149. One unique theme of my class is the role of ephemera, the throw-away flotsam and jetsam of everyday life, in collecting discarded visions of futures past.

Typically we think of ephemera as being easily thrown away, stuff like paper, postcards, comics, and the like. But the industrial era has made possible a rise in more, shall we say, durable ephemera (it's Friday; I don't mind waxing paradoxical).

Recently, Wired offered a few interesting examples of durable ephemera. Some didn't quite speak to me, failing to whisper much more beyond their apparent depictions of junk. But a couple of them manage to evoke an eerie image of overlapping realities - the kinds of parallel worlds that we discuss in class. Check 'em out: Abandoned Technologies.

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