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

andrew burrell andrew at miscellanea.com
Tue Nov 20 19:43:41 EST 2007

hi mickey and all,

avatar nostalgia is built right into games such as World of Warcraft,
and i think the clever (and intentional) manipulation of a players
sense of nostalgia for their own in game experiences (mediated through
their avatar and user interface) is one of the reasons for the success
of these games. in many ways WoW is a well structured mnemonic
environment firmly situated in  the the lineage of the classical Art
of Memory (as outlined in the rhetorical guides of Cicero, Quintilian
et.al. and 'externalised' by Camillo in his theatre of memory).

WoW follows all of the rules for creating an 'artificial' environment
upon which one can construct - as an active rather than passive
memorisation - an external and navigable system of memory. every
'region' in the game is distinguishable visibly and aurally from one
another. there are well defined paths that move from major site to
major site (each distinctive in its own way) and a separate piece of
music plays in, and represents each, definable area. memories of not
only in game experience but also 'real life' experience (as in
emotions or experiences or mind-space etc. that a player comes to the
game with) are then encoded into areas of the games mnemonic landscape
that are then triggered, as one revisits these sites at a later time.

in order to test this theory i have recently been playing a mmorpg
called 'eve online'. the avatar in this game is a faceless spaceship
and the navigable landscape is the vastness of the universe which is
astoundingly homogenous and despite the game boasting a universe of
thousands of star systems to explore, the only real difference
(besides are nebular here, a gas cloud  there) is the narrative that
is created through interacting with npc's and  other 'real life'
players - but i find that this narrative seems to float, aimlessly
unattached to anything 'physical', until it becomes irretrievable. and
as if the makers of this game were doing their own experiments in the
Art of Memory, music plays from a playlist and is not site specific so
it can never be tied to a memory in space. in opposition to many of
the other successful mmorpg 'eve online' seems to break every rule of
the classical Art, and as a consequence i have found that memories are
NOT encoded in its persistent world and that this game cannot act as
an environment of 'externalised'  or 'artificial' memory - perhaps its
persistence breaks down through sameness...

a similar thing could be said of second life. while i have spent many
many hours building, creating and exploring SL, i find it very
difficult to maintain a personal history within the SL world itself.
not only does much of its vast expanse look incredible similar, it is
also constantly changing, visual landmarks come and go and navigation
becomes a matter of 'teleporting' from bookmark (co-ordinate based
landmark) to bookmark. AND this brings me back to the archive and
documentation. to overcome the constantly shifting and impermanent
nature of SL many people have began to create blogs, photo albums or
other such archives of their experiences in SL in order to create
their own personally defined and navigable
memory-scapes/theatres/palaces/artifices..... remind anyone of 'real


ps: the use of the phrase 'real life' should be read as being of
linguistic convenience and it is the antithesis of my views to suggest
that there is any construction or experience other than 'real life'.

andrew burrell

On Nov 17, 2007 3:47 AM, Madeleine Reich Casad <mir9 at cornell.edu> wrote:
> Hi Andrew,
> You wrote this a while ago, now, and I tried to ask earlier but think
> the message never went through:
> Do you experience something like avatar nostalgia?
> I'm wondering to what extent we can think of the game environment
> itself as 'externalized memory'.
> Mickey
> On Nov 8, 2007, at 6:19 PM, andrew burrell wrote:
> > . i also have strong memories of places,
> > encounters and discoveries in azeroth (memory mediated by mmorpg), and
> > while i have spent much time trying to discern if a memory of a place
> > in 'world of warcraft' is (on a personal level) any different from a
> > 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.
> >
> > andrew burrell
> > http://www.miscellanea.com
> > _______________________________________________
> > empyre forum
> > empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
> > http://www.subtle.net/empyre
> _______________________________________________
> empyre forum
> empyre at lists.cofa.unsw.edu.au
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andrew burrell

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