[-empyre-] November 2007 on -empyre- : Memory Errors in theTechnosphere: Art, Accident, Archive

Madeleine Reich Casad mir9 at cornell.edu
Mon Nov 12 16:46:02 EST 2007

Hi everyone,

First of all, thanks to Tim and Renate for such a warm introduction,  
and for inviting me to take part in this discussion.  And thanks,  
too, to Norie and Maria for generating such a wealth of interesting  
conversational threads to follow up on.

I actually just want to jump into the conversation as it's going so  
far, revisiting a few points made by Norie, Andrew, and John in the  
past couple of days:

>>>> And then there are the memories we can have of a place we've never
>>>> been to, but remember through the media...
>>> and on the level of the individual (that is of the 'I' doing the
>>> remembering) i have to wonder if there is any substantial difference
>>> between a memory formed through an intermediate media or through
>>> direct contact with the actual 'thing' being remembered. I have  
>>> strong
> ...snip...
>>> memory i have of a place i went on holiday in 1995 (for example), i
>>> keep coming back to the same conclusion, that a memory is a  
>>> memory and
>>> no matter how one is formed the ultimate mediator will be an
>>> individuals 'perceptive filtering' and the circumstances and  
>>> triggers
>>> for recall.
>> If a memory comes from someone else's perceptive filtering but is now
>> your own memory, there feels like some sort of weird lag there,  
>> between their
>> perception and your perception... Do you experience that lag when  
>> you encounter
>> the place you remembered through their memories? Do your own,new  
>> perceptive encounters with
>> that place refilter and alter those acquired memories?
> I would say that the filtering that happens (in the primary  
> instance of someone else's experience of place) is based on what  
> that Other allows to pass through their sensory system to embed in  
> the mind -- of course everyone is quite different in this process  
> based on the body-as-filter along with the social filtering  
> mechanisms that are imbued in the Self during life.    The  
> overlaying of these filters can be either constructive (think  
> additive amplitudes) or can attenuate the signal  (the Other  
> recalls the smells, while you recall the colors of the Light).   
> Someone sharing, for example, the same family background or  
> cultural background might have a higher chance of sharing band-pass  
> energy, thus leading to a additive instance...  the lag could come  
> from the fact that the memories are 'written' differently in the  
> mind -- a smell has a different energy-impact on the brain/mind  
> than, say, someone's description of the situation where they  
> smelled something unusual along with a description of the smell...   
> the lag would encompass a process of linkage of these areas of  
> recall perhaps...

There's also the fact of our affective relationship to the specific  
Other in the first place, as a particularly strong perceptual  
filter.  Desire to confirm some kind of shared subjectivity or  
endorse some kind of identity connection by experiencing the memory  
'as they did' might make you work that much harder to extrapolate an  
imagined smell from another's verbal description, for example, or  
whatever it would take to make the memory 'real' for you...  to  
ensure that the interference pattern between your memory and theirs  
is constructive/amplifying after all.

I don't think this kind of energy investment and limitation is quite  
what you meant, John, in this exchange with Norie:

>> The digital, as a larger and more complex techno-social system,  
>> demands more energy in a thermo-dynamic sense to maintain the  
>> order of its production and dispersion -- it thus requires more  
>> energy from those who participate in that system.  It thus is  
>> likely that it is also more narrow in what is carries -- in the  
>> sense that it flattens out the idiosyncratic differences between  
>> individuals by limiting the form that the memory takes (i.e.,  
>> photographs versus a box of random trinkets that one might collect  
>> to form another personal array of externalized memory).
> flattening out idiosyncratic differences to save energy...  
> interesting, but I do wonder if it let's the techno-social-cultural  
> system off the hook a bit? seems to me that the culture has a lot  
> of trouble with difference already and then embeds its narrowness  
> in its technologies.

Desire for constructive interference doesn't necessarily mean  
elimination of difference, but it may nonetheless lead us to valorize  
certain kinds of mediation.  I'm wondering how this relates to  
Norie's remarks about memory and the transforming presence of  
cameras?  It's interesting that both of the examples you mentioned,  
Norie, have to do with small groups performing some kind of cohesion:

> I remember the moment when difficult family holidays suddenly  
> turned into fun family holidays when I finally learned to "perform"  
> fun family holiday by "documenting" it with my camera. In those  
> analogue days,none of us ever looked at the family photo archive  
> much (except to perform nostalgia).


> something my students told me about -- one way they use their  
> mobile phones socially is to take photos of each other, look at   
> them, but not necessarily send them. seems to be something about  
> taking the photo and making the memory.

Performing mythos in real time... and inspired more by the fact of  
documentation than by the document itself?  I guess it's open for  
argument how the increasing ubiquity of the observing lens shapes our  
behavior.  The presence of a camera at a family holiday might create  
a frame of reference that connects the collective family experience  
to a particular kind of visual archive.  Or it could act like a  
superego, making sure that everyone is on record as enjoying  
themselves.  Not that these are the only possibilities, of course,  
but I wonder if these two functions are even separable, or to what  
extent?  At any rate, I think the (analog) 'camera-ready' events and  
memories created for a family holiday differ greatly from ephemeral  
(but potentially retainable) cellphone shots at a party or bar.  In  
the latter case, taking and viewing a photo marks the event's passage  
into the interpretive framework of dominant visual culture, but  
whether or not to 1) circulate an image beyond the immediate  
gathering or 2) save it as a 'document' would depend on other  
considerations....Maybe primarily social ones?  What else is going on  
in the cellphone camera case?


More information about the empyre mailing list