What makes a memory memorable? #ARTS3091

24 Mar

Wendy Chun argues that digital media are highly unreliable when it comes to storage and memory. She puts forward the idea that we assume that digital media is about storage and storage is perfect, therefore making our memories perfect. However, as Lovink stated,

Because of the speed of events, there is a real danger that an online phenomenon will already have disappeared before a critical discourse reflecting on it has had the time to mature and establish itself as institutionally recognised knowledge (Kyong-Chun 2011, p. 186)

Put simply, the fact both traditional media (newspapers, radio, tv etc) and new media (twitter, Facebook, Instagram) constantly bombard us with new information, it must be questioned how much we actually remember. Do we rely on our computer archives, status updates and twitter feeds so much that social media has actually weakened our ability to remember? Or has it become an extension of the human memory? (Wikipedia 2014)

I’m specifically going to focus on how Facebook seems to be an extension of ones memory, but also a place of memory overload. From the recent profile “time-line” installment it appears that Facebook treasures personal memories. Scrolling back through old photos and posts I am reminded of holidays, fun nights out, and funny moments I’ve shared with friends and family. Birthday reminders, personal event calendars and notifications arguably extend and enrich my biological memory. On the other hand, it also seems that the endless documenting of photos, status updates, posts and reminders of peoples birthdays (that most of the time I don’t really care about) layers up my profile with mindless memories that will become meaningless over time. I know when I scroll through my Facebook homepage I tend to mind numbingly read things without any intention to remember them…if some actually asked me what I read on my Facebook homepage this morning it’s likely that I wouldn’t be able to recount much of what I read.

Benjamin Libet has calculated that it can take up to .5 of a second to consciously “experience the present”. The media’s fast pace nature arguably doesn’t give one time to “experience the present” because the focus is too much (both publically and privately) about what’s happening now, tomorrow or next weekend.

Alva Noe believes that memory does not come from the mind, but rather our personal experience:

 The brain is necessary for our life, but it is hardly sufficient. A human being, like every living being, is a locus of densely interwoven coupling with the world around us (Noë 2010)

Alan Kay’s video (see below) is a great example of how the mind learns and remembers through physical experience rather than technical thinking. His video addresses how “over-thinking” can actually seize up the process of learning and remembering. Relating Alan Kay’s theory with my own personal experience of trying to learn the French language, I would definitely have to agree that memorable memories are made through experience. After studying French at school for 4 years, I only seemed to remember the phrases “Bonjour”, “Merci” and “Au Revoir”. However, after living and working for a French family for only two months as an Au Pair, I was just about fluent. Apart from the obvious fact that I would pick up the language quickly as I was hearing it all the time, every French word was given substance from the way my host family would say them to me.  If Nemo (the 5 year old) was hungry he was grab his stomach and whine “J’ai Faim!” (“I’m hungry!”) Or if Marko (my host dad) couldn’t find his keys he would be pointing at the door lock, looking around franticly shouting, “Où sont les clés?!” (“Where are the keys?!”) It was these actions that made these words memorable – not the words themselves.

We learn and remember through experience and not through technical thinking. Although it may seem like the media is an extension of our memory, these memories on there are simply “stored away” rather than remembered. Both old, and particularly new, forms of media constantly bombards us with information and updates to the point that our mind is trained to just read and observe rather than experience and absorb it.

 Alan Kay’s video:




‘The Extended Mind’, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/

Kyong-Chun, Wendy Hui (2011) ‘The Enduring Ephemeral, or The Future is a Memory’ in Huhtamo, Errki and Parikka, Jussi (eds.) Media Archaeology: Approaches, Applications, and Implications. Berkeley: University of California Press, 184-194

Noë, Alva (2010) ‘Does thinking happen in the brain?’, 13:7 Cosmos and Culture http://www.npr.org/blogs/13.7/2010/12/10/131945848/doesthinkinghappen-in-the-brain


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