Posts Tagged ‘Digital Media


van Dijck’s Mediated Memories

Jose van Dijck
Mediated Memories in the Digital Age
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies

In her new book, Mediated Memories in the Digital Age, Jose van Dijck defines “personal cultural memory as the acts and products of remembering in which individuals engage to make sense of their lives in relation to the lives of others and to their surroundings, situating themselves in time and place” (6).  Van Dijck argues that memories are never stable over time, and how we choose to remember them and the technologies that we use to recall such memories are actually the concerns. She states, “As our technologies for writing change, so do our ways of creating self-reflective records; memory, in other words, is always implicated in the act and technology of writing” (63).  In chapter three, van Dijck shows how some Alzheimer patients are utilizing blogs and lifelogs to record their deteriorating memories.  These technologies are not necessarily for the patients themselves, but are used as supportive mechanisms for families and for others experiencing memory loss.  Because the main use of the Alzheimer patients’ blogs and lifelogs are for others to remember someone as they were is an important distinction.  For example, if a family member decides to visit one of these blogs, what they are reading is a preserved version of the same person that they have known, the person before the memory loss becomes extreme.  By returning to these sites, family members are hoping to find that the saved memories are suspending the person they knew before the disease became crippling. The Alzheimer patient is actively suspending herself to be remembered later in a specifically unchanged way.   Thus, EMDs, such as Alzheimer blogs, allow visitors to see a person as though the disease is not occurring.
As van Dijck maintains, “Blogging itself becomes a real-life experience, a construction of self that is mediated by tools for reflection and communication. In the life of bloggers, the medium is not the message but the medium is the experience” (van Dijck 75).  If the medium is now the experience, and if Alzheimer bloggers are knowingly placing their memories and experiences on sites so that they are not tainted by disease, then suspension is clearly the issue here.  Although van Dijck argues that memories are never stable, Alzheimer blogs are functioning in the exact opposite way by storing memories so that they become stabilized.  Also, the shared experience between the blogger and the blog reader further compliments the notion of collective digitized memory.  Because blogs and lifelogs are specifically public domains, the reader and Alzheimer blogger alike can remember events together by reading the same posts.  This specific type of collective memory suggests that the Alzheimer blogger will experience her own memory as though it is not actually hers.  As the disease progresses, the Alzheimer blogger can read his own posts and experience a part of himself that is essentially disease free.  Moreover, while the disease actively deteriorates the mind, the Alzheimer blogger is actively posting to suspend his memories in order that he, his family, and others who may be experiencing similar deterioration can return to these memories knowing they will be constant and unchanged. Just as one uploads personal files to a flash drive for later use, the Alzheimer blogger is posting to save parts of himself, relying upon its stability.
Critical moments in the text
3: Biographical memory has three main functions: to preserve a sense of being a coherent person over time, to strengthen social bonds by sharing personal memories, and to use past experience to construct models to understand inner worlds of self and others.”
5: “Memory work thus involves a complex set of recursive activities that shape our inner worlds, reconciling past and present, allowing us to make sense of the world around us, and constructing an idea of continuity between self and others.”
6: “Personal cultural memory as the acts and products of remembering in which individuals engage to make sense of their lives in relation to the lives of others and to their surroundings, situating themselves in time and place.”
10: “In a sociological sense, ‘collective memory’ means that people must felt hey were somehow part of a communal past, experiencing a connection between what happened in general and how they were involved as individuals.”
15: “Over the years, both negative and positive appreciations of media and memory’s alliance reveal such binary thinking.  From the days of Plato, who viewed the invention of writing and script as a degeneration of pure memory (meaning: untainted by technology), every new means of outsourcing our physical capacity to remember has generated resentment.”
16: “AS an artificial prosthesis, they can free the brain of unnecessary burdens and allow more space for creative activity; as a replacement, they can corrupt memory.”
24: “In any case, mediated memories never remain the same in the course of time but are constantly prone to the vagaries of time and changing relations between self and others.”
34: “Memory can be creative in reconstructing the past, just as imagination can be reconstructive in memorizing the present—think only of the many visual tricks people play to perform the cognitive task of factual recall.  The function of personal memory, even if restricted to studying its ‘mindware,’ is not simply about re-creating an accurate picture of one’s past, but it is about creating a mental map of one’s past through the lens of the present.”
41-2: “Memory is not exclusively located inside the brain, and hence limited to the interior body, and it cannot be ‘disembodied,’ because external bodies and technologies are part of the same mutual affect.”
45: “If is an illusion to think that memory could be severed from the body, because biology and technology—body and media—have merged beyond distinction.”
50: “Memory, as a result, may become less a process of recalling than a topological skill, the ability to locate and identify pieces of culture that identify the place of self in relation to others.”
56: “The affective constitution of personal memories is well recognized by psychologists: when people read or hear reminiscences narrated by others, they often feel triggered or invited to contribute their own memories.”
67: “Just as paper diaries reflect someone’s age, taste, and preference at a particular moment in one’s life, the software and signature of blogs seem to accommodate the needs of especially contemporary teens and young adults to express and sort out their identity in an increasingly wired, mediated world.”
149: “Since early modernity, people have tried to imagine and invent memory machines that could remedy two basic shortcomings of the human brain: its inability to systematically record and store every single experience in our lives, as well as the brain’s incapacity to retrieve these experiences unchanged at any later moment in time.”
150: “Digital storage-retrieval facilities, such as search engines, are not merely new metaphors that mold our concepts of memory; they actually define the performative nature of memory.”
152: “Documents of recordings can be stored in a database, and we want them to be there, unchanged, as we retrieve them and subject them to (re)interpretation; memories are never unchanging data that can be stored and retrieved in original shape.  As German media theorist Hartmut Winkler puts it: ‘Material storage devices are supposed to preserve their contents faithfully. Human memories, on the other hand, tend to select, reconfigure, and forget their contents—and we know from theory that this is the real achievement of human memory.  Forgetting, in that sense, is not a defect, but an absolute necessary form of protection.’”
179: “If morphibility and connectivity are becoming the default mode of mediated memories in the digital age, we need to adjust our research questions accordingly. […] But with the implementation of digital media tools in the everyday construction of memory, our very concept of how memory functions is technically and metaphorically grounded in different parameters.  Does this mean we should now define autobiographical memory by its ‘track changes’ mode in addition to its ‘save file’ mode?”
180: “Memories are never a simple inheritance from the past: people make media to shape memories, and memories shape people to make media.”


Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto

Donna Haraway, “A Cyborg Manifesto”
Area: Digital Media

•    Blasphemy has always required taking things very seriously
o    Irony is about humor and serious play.  It’s also a rhetorical strategy
o    At the center of my ironic faith, my blasphemy, is the image of the cyborg
•    Boundary between science fiction and social reality is an optical illusion
•    We are all chimeras—theorized and fabricated hybrids of machine organisms
o    This is our cyborg ontology
•    Pleasure of the confusion of the boundaries
•    The cyborg is a creature in a post-gender world
o    It skips the step of identification in the traditional Western sense
•    Forming wholes from parts—doesn’t expect completion in a finished whole
o    Or, through a heterosexual mate
•    Pre-cybernetic machines always had the spectre of the ghost in the machine
o    They couldn’t achieve man’s dream, only mock it: they were caricatures of that masculinist reproductive dream
•    The boundary between the physical and the non-physical is very imprecise
•    Cyborgs are about consciousness—or its simulation
•    None of “us” have any longer the symbolic or mental capability of dictating the shape of reality to any of “them”
•    Ironically, MacKinnon’s ontology constructs a non-subject, a non-being
o    Another’s desire, not the self’s labor, is the “origin” of woman
•    It’s not just that god is dead; so is the goddess
•    Translation of the world into a problem of coding, a search for a common language in which all resistance to instrumental control disappears
•    We’re not dealing with technological determinism, but with a historical system depending upon structured relations among people
•    The task is to survive diaspora
•    Perhaps, ironically, we can learn from our fusions with animals and machines how not to be Man, the embodiment of Western logos
Critical moments in the text (pagination not aligned with original)
1: “A cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction.”
1: “The cyborg is a matter of fiction and lived experiences that changes what counts as women’s experience in the late twentieth century.”
2: “Nature and culture are reworked; the one can no longer be the resource for appropriation or incorporation by the other.”
2: “The main trouble with cyborgs, of course, is that they are the illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchcal capitalism, not to mention state socialism.”
2: “Biology an evolutionary theory over the last two centuries have simultaneously produced modern organisms as objects of knowledge and reduced the line between humans and animals to a faint trace re-etched in ideological struggle or professional disputes between life and social science.  Within this framework, teaching modern Christian creationism should be fought as a form of child abuse.”
2: “Our machines are disturbingly lively, and we ourselves frighteningly inert.”
3: “So my cyborg myth is about transgressed boundaries, potent fusions, and dangerous possibilities which progressive people might explore as one part of needed political work.  One of my premises is that most American socialists and feminists see deepened dualisms of mind and body, animal and machine, idealism and materialism in the social practices, symbolic formulations, and physical artifacts associated with ‘high technology’ and scientific culture.”
3: “There is nothing about being ‘female’ that naturally binds women.  There is not even such a state as ‘being’ female, itself a highly complex category constructed in contested sexual scientific discourses and other social practices.  Gender, race, or class-consciousness is an achievement forced on us by the terrible historical experience of the contradictory social realities of patriarchy, colonialism, and capitalism.  And who counts as ‘us’ in my own rhetoric?”
4: “The main achievement of moth Marxist feminists and socialist feminists was to expand the category of labor to accommodate what (some) women did, even when the wage relation was subordinated to a more comprehensive view of labor under capitalist patriarchy.  In particular, women’s labor in the household and women’s activity as mothers generally (that is, reproduction in the socialist-feminist sense), entered theory on the authority of analogy to the Marxian concept of labor.  The unity of women here rests on an epistemology based on the ontological structure of ‘labor.’”
6: “Reproduction had different tones of meanings for the two tendencies, one rooted in labor, one in sex, both calling the consequences of domination and ignorance of social and persona reality ‘false consciousness.’”
8: “The actual situation of women is their integration/exploitation into a world system of production/reproduction and communication called the informatics of domination.  The home, workplace, market, public arena, the body itself all can be dispersed and interfaced in nearly infinite, polymorphous ways, with large consequences for women and others—consequences that themselves are very different for different people and which make potent oppositional international movements difficult to imagine and essential for survival. […[  The cyborg is a kind of disassembled and reassembled, postmodern collective and personal self.  This is the self feminists must code.
8: “Communications technologies and biotechnologies are the crucial tools recrafting our bodies”
8: “The translation of the world into a problem of coding, a search for a common language in which all resistance to instrumental control disappears and all heterogeneity can be submitted to disassembly, reassembly, investment, and exchange.”
11: “I want to suggest the impact of the social relations mediated and enforced by the new technologies in order to help formulate needed analysis and practical work.  However, there is no ‘place’ for women in these networks, only geometries of difference and contradiction crucial to women’s cyborg identities.”
14: “’We’ did not originally choose to be cyborgs, but choice grounds a liberal politics and epistemology that imagines the reproduction of individuals before the wider replications of ‘texts.’”
15: “The self is the One who is not dominated, who knows that by the service of the other, the other is the one who holds the future, who knows that by the experience of domination, which gives the lie to the autonomy of the self.  To be One is to be autonomous, to be powerful, to be God; bur to be One is to be an illusion, and so to be involved in a dialectic of apocalypse with the other.  Yet to be other is to be multiple, without clear boundary, frayed, insubstantial.  One is too few, but two are too many.”
15: “High-tech culture challenges these dualisms in intriguing ways.  It is not clear who makes and who is made in the relation between human and machine.”
15: “Why should out bodies end at the skin, or include at best other beings encapsulated by skin?”
16: “Our bodies, ourselves; bodies are maps of power and identity.  Cyborgs are no exception.  A cyborg body is not innocent; it was not born in a garden; it does not seek unitary identity and so generate antagonistic dualisms without end (or until the world ends); it takes irony for granted.”
16: Two crucial arguments in the essay: “the production of universal, totalizing theory is a major mistake that misses most of reality, probably always, but not certainly now; and second, taking responsibility for the social relations of science and technology means refusing an anti-science metaphysics, a demonology of technology, and so means embracing the skillful task of reconstructing the boundaries of daily life, in partial connection with others, in communication with all of our parts.”
16: “I would rather be a cyborg than a goddess.”

January 2019
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