I know, that's so old-skool. But I like it.
You know how it is when you learn a new word, and all of a sudden you see it everywhere? Which is probably nothing more than your attention being sharpened to what was already in front of you. The universe is full of unrecognized connections.
Well, that word for me this week isn't just a word, but a person -- George H Williams -- who I don't know IRL -- and whose blog I occasionally look at (link in my list to the right). I wrote in response to an item on his blog 2 days ago. And then yesterday, I'm reading the Chronicle of Higher Ed (yup, sad to say it's one of my main sources of interesting info) and there's an article with a picture of the aforementioned GHW (in the 8/6 issue) detailing his involvement with Skin.
Now, all the cool kids obviously already knew about this amazing project begun by Shelley Jackson (author of the hypertext Patchwork Girl and many other things). She's written a story called Skin, and is publishing it, one word at a time, on the skin of volunteers who agree to get tattooed in a classic book font with the word she issues them. These volunteers are then called her "words", functioning as the embodiment of her text. According to her website she's behind in her correspondence due to an RSI -- there are approximately 350 words left to be issued, but it's not clear whether they will all go to people who've already written to her, or if she's still taking applications.
There's a post with many comments on GHW's site, including his thoughts about how the project exposes "cultural anxieties about permanence and impermanence, and that these anxieties are heightened in a digital age, where words seem to vanish from the screen as soon as we shut down our electronic reading devices." What I also find compelling about it is the way it makes evident the interconnection of multiple agents and a single author in the construction, distribution, and manifold interpretations of a text. Every text inevitably means more, or in different ways, than its author "intended"; every text has many hands at work in shaping it.
Do I want (to be) a word? Yeah. Though of course that also raises issues of another sort. Saram's essay on waiting for her word (which turned out to be "the") captures many of my own thoughts: what if you get a word you don't like? not just in terms of content, but there are words that are disturbing in their sound or shape. You have right of refusal, but then you don't get a 2nd word. You're either in or out.
Plus, my first tattoo (and my plans for a 2nd one) was all about signifying something to me, marking a specific time in my life. My idea for the design, selection of a model, my choice of an artist to modify it and create the tattoo, the placement of it -- all under my control. To be a word in this project would remove some of that control. But it would also be pretty amazing.