The Question Concerning Identification: A Tetradic Analysis of the Alberta Birth Certificate

Jan L. Buterman
One little-noticed yet increasingly vital technology is the birth certificate. The existence of any technology transforms the environment, yet many technologies--just as the birth certificate--remain generally unnoticed or disregarded as neutral. Locating my research within a media ecology framework, I use McLuhan and McLuhan's Laws of Media to help us understand that instead of being neutral, technology is an active utterance of the human mind, transforming our entire environment. Following
more » ... se Laws, I ask the fourfold question of what does the technology of the birth certificate enhance, obsolesce, retrieve and, when pushed to an extreme, reverse in to? To answer this question, I use the Tetrad of Media Effects to apply the Laws of Media to the technology of the birth certificate. In keeping with the complex nature of technologies and their environments, my research reveals that the technology of the birth certificate has a broad genealogy inclusive of documentation challenges for both transgender and cisgender individuals. Through exploring literature related these issues, as well as literature related to surveillance and documentation, records and archiving, and others, I begin to map some of this complexity to allow for closer examination. I uncover the history of birth registration and certification in Alberta, including an overview of the specifications and components used in this technology today, as well as the local, national, and international legal frameworks that comprise some of the literally-invisible aspects of this technology. Incorporating media reports also helps to flesh out the lived experiences of many different types of people and their interactions with birth certificates and related technologies. While my research was initially inspired by my experiences as a transgender person seeking to amend state-issued identification documents, my thesis uncovers the ongoing, universal effects of the technology of the birth certificate which applies to all. The birth certificate's active role in constructing modern citizenship means that identification technologies are a legitimate concern of adult education. Accordingly, iii my research demonstrates that identification technologies are an emerging site for adult education praxis. iv
doi:10.7939/r3zc7s644 fatcat:bh3pvcts7fhzvbt465ln2dwnwu