Prosthetic Memory & The Propogation of Ideas

Prosthetic Memory & The Propogation of Ideas

We could provide you with technical updates on where we are at with trying make software & hardware work and behave in the ways we want it to, but that would be boring and is not really at the heart of what we are aiming to do through our research. So instead this is a collection of thoughts that are at the edge of some of our work.

In developing our research, we have been talking a lot about mobile devices (& tools) and what our physical and psychological relationship to them is. As an object they have become a form of prosthesis, a bodily augmentation that enables us to carry out superhuman tasks. Such as the storage of vast catalogues of information far more than our human memories are capable of. Our mobile devices become a sort of external prosthetic memory, holding photographs, shopping lists, conversations and our relationships, by-passing our short-term memories and straight into a black box recorder.

But talking in these terms what happens to our lives when our memories are public, floating around with all those other memories in electronic space, more recently referred to as the cloud or previously cyberspace. Do memories stay whole and unfaded, do they degrade like old photographs until eventually faces and facts become indistiguishable? Maybe more accurately our memories when stored in networked space or catalogued as data, propogate and find similar memories or ideas. Forming new memory species or super-ideas that protect them from disappearing.

In trying to describe this behaviour of ideas in electronic space we have come up with a bizarre semiotic link. ‘Going Viral’, this trend towards describing the spread of memetic objects and ideas as a virus has unfortunate links, marketing companies and ad agencies desparately want people to be infected with their idea. Not to just be infected but to become a host for this idea and then subsequently pass on the idea by further disseminating it. We already describe our relationship to the internet using biological terms, although somewhat uncomfortably. A virus in biology propogates and spreads because it adapts its appearance to be seemingly benign to the host organism or cell, it attaches itself to our rNA and disguises itself as something that it is not and gradually working its way from cell to cell overcomes the hosts.

How might we find techniques of unpicking these collective memories, to a certain extent data visualisation is exactly this. Data Visualisation tells a story from a multitude of perspectives, but in doing this graphically the nuances, mistakes, uncertainties and human qualities are lost. How do we find these details in the mass of available information, how do we re-search through the swamp of our collective memory in a way that provides new perspectives or reveals untold stories?

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