The age of editing

Some insist that everything about ourselves is like a text. And like a text, it may be edited. The human project is a continuous endeavour to edit our own script, to make changes, excise, perfect, amend, and relentlessly publish it in our interactions with others.

Editing is amending in order to make better, but sometimes editing introduces layers of emendation that make the notion of ‘original’ harder to understand. Sometimes, editing falsifies the original and conceals it from view.

New media is particularly subject to invasive editing. Digital technology is so malleable that editing becomes part of parcel of new media creation. Editing a photo in the age of film was difficult and was often accomplished with questionable results. Today, photo editing makes it increasingly harder to reconstruct the editing trail and capture moment 0.

Communication is also affected by this new type of editing. Text messaging services are ever more receptive to deep editing – to the point that messages in a conversation may be deleted after delivery. A thread of comments on social media may be altered beyond recognition, creating ever new challenges.

Editing reflects our desire for mastery over what we do and a modern understanding that what it seems is what it is. Editing depends on malleability. Our age is becoming one where everything is plastic, easy to change.

It’s hard to edit texts engraved in stone or wood. It is easier to make changes to ink on papyrus and even easier on parchment and paper. Digital text is easiest to edit and destroy – and a culture left at the mercy of exclusive digital preservation is one at risk of edition and even deletion.

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