Paper – everday product and vehicle for culture

Paper carries information and creates identity

In their book, »Papier: Produkt aus Lumpen, Holz und Wasser« (Paper: a product of  rags, wood and water) Günter Bayerl and Karl Pichol write:

Paper is such an everyday product, that hardly anyone remarks on its use. And yet it accompanies us throughout our whole of our lives as the carrier of a variety of information and determines our culture as a written culture.

Whether a cook book, school book or newspaper – paper carries and makes information possible; whether a novel, crime story or comic – paper provides entertainment; whether bible, epic story of chivalry or communist manifesto – paper makes relationships between times and worlds possible. Paper is also the basis for the exchange of goods and services in the form of business letters, contracts, catalogues, invoices etc. The relationship between the written message and what has been described is often so close that content and "messenger" are often identified with each other. Terms such as "business papers", "personal papers" or "official papers" have long since become part of our vocabulary. Documents or contracts are described as "important papers", a "paper" is drafted as the basis for a discussion; one submits one's "papers" or asks for them;

the archivist searches amongst "old papers" and official authorities fight against a "flood of paper" when they can hardly manage all of the laws, decrees and regulations.

Paper packs and encloses children's school snacks as well as birthday presents and the bunch of flowers for grandmother; it reveals hidden stories once it has passed through the rotary presses of the yellow press. As cigarette paper it stimulates (…) but disillusions when received in the form of a fixed penalty or court summons.

As a reference, it elevates or humbles the recipient; as a letter from friends or notification of the long awaited salary increase, paper brings us joy, as a letter of complaint or notice of rent increase on the other hand, it means trouble. It would be possible to fill many pages describing the variety of ways, in which we deal with paper and how many of life's messages are communicated by it.

Günter Bayerl, Karl Pichol. Papier: Produkt aus Lumpen, Holz und Wasser (Hamburg, 1986), S. 7.