Paperdigm: Paper Theater

In spring 2009, students of my Security by Obscurity project were digging into the looks and poetics of online security and the way we are made to believe that we are safe or in danger. Of course Schneier on Security was among our primary readings. The book is a collection of Bruce Schneier’s commentaries from the last decade, most can also be found online. For example the one that provoked a lot of interesting discussions — Praise of Security Theater where Schneier explains the term: Security Theater is “security primarily designed to make you feel more secure.”

Thinking about examples of Security Theater we very soon arrived at the huge field of paper simulation on screen. To look more official, more personal, more trustworthy, more real, designers put digital content on a background that looks like paper. Though the web is so much better than paper.

I now own a piece of software!

I am convinced that this girl is sincere and spontaneous!

I am sure Román Cortés really exists and will read my message!

One of the students, Stefan Krappitz, boiled down this behavior to his project PaperTrust. It is a minimalistic online application: You paste your text in a form and get it back as if it was printed on the paper of your choice, so you can express yourself through paper if the content doesn’t quite do it. Choose fake watermarks for official documents, a napkin to appear creative, or use heavy paper with prepared Adorno footnotes on it! (They may not be a proper reference to your text, but nobody will have doubts in your academic skills.)

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