Friday, May 14, 2010

Former Times

The following is a little exercise in imaginary anthropology. -- JC

The sheets, of poor quality and now almost brittle, are folded in half vertically as well as horizontally, approximately 44 zm square. They are curiously unwieldy to manipulate by folding or turning unless laid flat upon a relatively large table. This is in marked contrast to other kids of printed matter in static form, some of it issued regularly, as this document was, every 20stu. Yellow now, we can infer from similar reproductions that this one once was once white. The first of these sheets are typographically sectioned off into pieces, typically about six or eight for those on the front, called “stories,” though they rarely had a full narrative shape, in part because they described events that were ongoing. They were often accompanied by static visual images, typically informal portraits of those discussed in the “story.”

Interior sheets often have less typographical sectioning, as large proportions of the sheets, and even some sheets in their entirety, were given over for the purpose of promoting commerce, which apparently financed the operations of these publications.

The specimen I’m holding is mid 27b. This can be said with some confidence, because there are records of earlier iterations of the 27 series, and it appears that its issuance in this format was discontinued shortly after 27b. Large segments of digital records after this point have not been recovered.

There is not much of value to be said about the specific data presented in these documents, which deal with typical usan preoccupations such as political corruption at home, foreign adventurism abroad, and the various merits and drawbacks of the latest commercial baubles, often technological in nature. There are, however, a few notes worth making here in a cursory way. The first is that publications like these appear to have circulated without restriction. Apparently, any interested parties could acquire a reproduction of this document at what appears to be a nominal cost (transcribing currencies is always a hazardous enterprise, but a reasonable estimate here is approximates 4.2 cu, about the price of a sterneetz). However, the literacy rate was relatively high, so stratification – educational an index of economic – may be safely inferred. As is so often the case, an apparent a manifestation of usan “democracy” turns out to be a good deal less than it appears to be.