History is an illusion

We sometimes take it for granted that history is a social construct. Out of the wide river of human experience, we dip out a cupful onto the ground and try to read the waters before the earth drinks it up.

History is a story we tell ourselves rather than a photograph of the past. What we include and leave out in the telling reflects who we are. Tell me your history and I will know you.

A while back, I photoshopped this image of The Smiths and included myself standing next to Morrissey. In searching through my server logs for 404 errors, I noticed that several people are embedding this image in their blogs or Myspace pages presumably without realizing that it is not really The Smiths. It’s some bizarro Smiths where I am a member, and yet across these different sites they are inserting me into history. Everyone is familiar with Morrissey, but I can safely replace one of his lesser known band-mates. It’s enough to fool several people even with a half-assed photoshop job.

How far could you take this? Could you insert yourself into other images and distribute them like a history virus throughout the Internet? Could you create a few different “history” books, change a few facts, and the release them? In the digital age, how can you rely on your sources? There are no parchment manuscripts you can carbon date. In this ephemeral world, there is no authority, no ur-source. There is only consensus.

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