Posts Tagged ‘Memory


Donald’s Origins of the Modern Mind

Merlin Donald
Origins of the Modern Mind: Three Stages in the Evolution of Culture and Cognition
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies
Chapter Eight: Third Transition: External Symbolic Storage and Theoretic Culture

•    Before the human body could be dissected and catalogued, it had to be demythologized
o    Demytholgoization illustrates the transformation in mythic (narrative) → theoretic (analytic)
•    Rhetoric is a set of skills that controls language use on the level of discourse
•    The Trivium: Rhetoric, Logic, Grammar
273: “Whereas oral-mythic cultures rely heavily on individual biological memory, modern cultures rely much more on external memory devices, mostly on various classes of graphic symbols, from pictures and graphs to ideograms and writing.  Thus, the shift is from internal to external memory storage devices.  As the pattern of memory use shifts toward the external symbolic store, the architecture of the individual mind must change in a fundamental way, just as the architecture of a computer changes if it becomes part of a larger network.”
308:  “As long as future recipients possess the ‘code’ for a given set of graphic symbols, the knowledge stored in the symbols is available, transmitted culturally across time and space.  This change, in the terms of modern information technology, constitutes a hardware change, albeit a nonbiological hardware change.”
309:  External memory is best defined in functional terms: it is the exact external analog of internal, or biological memory, namely, a storage and retrieval system that allows humans to accumulate experience and knowledge.”
314:  “The major locus of stored knowledge is out there, not within the bounds of biological memory.  Biological memories carry around the code, rather than a great deal of specific information.  Monads confronted with a symbolic information environment are freed from the obligation to depend wholly on biological memory; but the price of this freedom is interpretative baggage.”
344:  “the result was that, for the first time in history, complex ideas were placed in the public arena, in an external medium, where they could undergo refinement over the longer term, that is, well beyond the life-span of single individuals.  This meant that the EXMF could be fully exploited for the first time; where its use had been restricted to analog models, lists, and a few simple narratives, it was not the field of more elaborate symbolic structures.”


Donald’s A Mind So Rare

Merlin Donald
A Mind So Rare: The Evolution of Human Consciousness
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies
Chapter 7: The First Hybrid Minds on Earth

•    The minute you embed a brain into a cognitive community, you change what you must do in order to remember, think, and represent reality
•    The relationship between consciousness and culture is a reciprocal one
o    Immersion in culture that defines our human modes of consciousness
•    Subdivided working memory into self and other
o    Even in simple two person interaction, it’s important to control and monitor the attention of the other person
Chapter 8: The Triumph of Consciousness
•    The literacy brain is a cultural add-on to the normal pre-literate state of the brain
•    Literacy skills are the response to the invention of external symbols
•    Symbolic technology allows readers to think thoughts that were previously impossible for them to conceive
•    The mirror arrangement also changes the reflective power of the conscious mind, because the external memory field gives working memory a much more solid display system for representations
•    Our most challenging symbolic representations deliberately exceed capacity
o    Ex: Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel plans
302:  “The most important of these is literacy.  Literacy skills change the functional organization of the brain and deeply influence how individuals and communities of literate individuals perform their cognitive work.  Mass literacy has triggered two kinds of major cognitive reorganizations, one in individuals and the other in groups
309: “Although this arrangement constitutes a very ordinary work environment in our highly literate society, it is an extraordinary historical development because it changes the long-standing relationship of consciousness to its representations.  We can arrange ideas in the external memory field, where they can be examined and subjected to classification, comparison, and experimentation, just as physical objects can in a laboratory.  In this way, externally displayed thoughts can be assembled into complex arguments much more easily than they can in biological memory.”
311: “The external memory field is not just another sector of working memory.  IT taps directly into the neural networks of literacy, located in brain regions that are distinct from those of working memory.  Working memory and the external memory field thus complement each other, and this allows the brain to exploit their distinct storage and retrieval properties.  This gives awareness a much richer structure.”
316:  “The external memory field is really a sort of Trojan Horse into the brain, a device that invades the innermost personal spaces of the mind.  It can play out cognitive instrument, directing our mind toe predetermined end states along a set course.”


Levy’s Becoming Virtual

Pierre Levy

Becoming Virtual: Reality in the Digital Age

Area: Digital Media


·        Virtuality is the process of humanity’s ‘becoming other’—it is heterogenesis

à      Analyze the process of transformation from one more of being to another

Chapter One: The Nature of Virtualization

·        Reality: “I’ve got it”

·        Virtuality: “You’ll get it”

·        Possible v. Virtual

à      Possible: Already fully constituted, but exists in limbo

·        Virtualization is the movement of actualization in reverse

28: “However, the fact of not being associated with any ‘there,’ of clinging to an unassignable space (the one in which telephone conversations take place?), of occurring only between things that are clearly situated, or of not being only ‘there’ (like any thinking being)—none of this prevents us from existing.”

Chapter Three: The Virtualization of the Text

·        Relationship between writing (intellectual technology) and memory (cognitive function)

à      Memory—virtualization: the partial detachment of a living body, sharing, heterogenesis

·        Writing desynchronizes and delocalizes

·        When reading on a screen, the extensive presence that precedes the act of reading has disappeared

à      Digital media doesn’t contain text that can be read by a human being

·        Digital Storage = potentialization

·        Display =  realization

·        The computer is a means for potentializing information

50: “Yet, having enabled us to conceive of memory as a kind of record, it has transformed the face of Mnemosyne.  The semi-objectivation of memory in the text has helped promote the development of a critical tradition.  In effect, writing creates distance between knowledge and its subject.  It is most likely because I am no longer that which I know that I am able to question my knowledge.”

Chapter Four: The Virtualization of the Economy

·        Knowledge has an increasingly shorter lifespan

·        Why is the consumption of information not destructive, and why is the possession of information not exclusive?

75: “Actualization is not an act of destruction but, on the contrary, an inventive act of production, and act of creation. When I use information, when I interpret it, connect it with other information to create meaning or help make a decision, I actualize it.  In doing so I accomplish a creative act, a productive act.  Knowledge is the product of apprenticeship, the result of a virtualization of immediate experience.”

78: “There are two possible methods of increasing the efficiency of labor: (1) reification of labor power through automation; or (2) virtualization of skills using means that augment collective intelligence.”


Ricoeur’s Memory, History, Forgetting

Paul Ricoeur
Memory, History, Forgetting
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies

Xvi: “In this way, the phenomenology if memory begins deliberately with an analysis turned toward the object of memory, the memory that one hase before the mind; it then passes through the stage of the search for a given memory, the stage of anamnesis, of recollection; we then finally move from memory as it is given and exercised to reflective memory, to memory of oneself.”
Chapter 1: Memory and Imagination
•    Two questions: of what are there memories? Whose memory is it?
•    To remember is to have a memory or to set off in search of a memory
•    What → who → how
•    Memory, reduced to recall, thus operates in the wake of imagination
•    Platonic: speaks of the present representation of an absent thing
o    It argues implicitly for enclosing the problematic of memory within that of imagination
•    Aristotelian: centered on the theme of representation of a think formerly perceived, acquired, or learned, argues for including the problematic of the image within that of remembering
o    Aristotle: “All memory is of the past”
•    Can a man who has learned something not know when he is remembering it?
•    Accept the identification between possessing knowledge and actively using it
o    Holding a bird v. keeping it in a cage
•    Platonic texts on memory: aporetic results and difficulties
o    Absence: explicit reference to the distinctive feature of memory in which the affections of the body and the soul to which memory is attached are signified
o    The relation that exists between the eikon and the first mark
•    Can the relation to the past only be a variety of mimesis?
•    History: trace or imprint?
o    “External” marks of writing: written discourse, image (wax impression), graphic
•    What do we remember: the affection or the thing that produced it?
o    If affection: then it’s not something absent one remembers
o    If the think: then how, while perceiving the impression could we remember the absent think that we are not at present perceiving?
•    Aristotle: distinction between mneme and anamnesis
o    Mneme: arises in the manner of an affection; simple evocation
o    Anamnemesis: active search; effort to recall
3: “If the ‘I’ in the first person singular is too hastily declared the subject of memory, the notion of collective memory can take shape only as an analogical concept, even as a foreign body in the phenomenology of memory.”
7:  “And yet, we have nothing better than memory to guarantee that something has taken place before we call to mind a memory of it.  Historiography itself, let us already say, will not succeed in setting aside the continually derided and continually reasserted conviction that the final referent of memory remains the past, whatever the pastness of the past may signify.”
9:  “The reference to time we might expect from the use of the verb ‘to preserve in memory’ is not relevant in the framework of an epistemic theory that is concerned with the status of false opinion, hence with judgment and not with memory as such.  Its strength is to embrace in full, from the persoective of a phenomenology of mistakes, the aporia of the presence of absence.”
11: “The idea of ‘faithful resemblance’ belonging to the eikastic art will at least have served as a relay.  Plato seems to have noted in the threshold of the impasse, when he asks himself: ‘what in the world do we mean by a ‘copy’?  We lose our way in the enumeration of examples that seem to escape the art of orderly division and, first of all, that of generic definition: ‘What in the world would we say a copy is, sir, except something that’s made similar to a true think and is another think that’s like it?’  But what is the meaning of ‘a true thing’? And ‘another thing’? And ‘like it’?”
14:  “Socrates proposes: ‘that our soul in such a situation is comparable to a book.’  ‘How so?’ asks Protarchus.  The explanation follows: ‘If memory and perceptions concur with other impressions at a particular occasion, then they seem to inscribe words in our soul, as it were.  And if what [the experience] is written is true, then we form a true judgment and a true account of the matter.  But what if what our scribe writes is false, then the result will be the opposite of truth.’”
15:  “To distinguish, not the persistence of memories in relation to their recall, but their simple presence to mind (which I shall later call simple evocation in my phenomenological sketch) in relation as a search.  Memory, in this particular sense, is directly characterized as affection (pathos), which distinguishes it precisely form recollection.”


Hayles’ My Mother Was a Computer

N. Katherine Hayles
My Mother Was a Computer: Digital Subjects and Literary Texts
Area: Digital Media
Preface: Computing Kin

•    Materiality—construction of matter that matter for human meaning
•    The complex dynamics through which the Computational universe works simultaneously as a means and metaphor in technical and artistic practices
•    Intermediation = complex transactions between bodies and texts as well as between different forms of media
o    The posthuman will be understood as effects of media
2: “’Postbiological’ future: the expectation that the corporeal embodiment that has always functioned to define the limits of the human will in the future become optional, as humans find ways to upload their consciousness into computers and leave their bodies behind.”
4: “In the contemporary period, reading as ‘hallucination’ has been displaced in part by the instant messaging, chat rooms, video games, e-mail, and Web surfing that play such a a large role in young people’s experiences.  To an extent, then, the mother’s voice that haunted reading has been supplanted by  another set of stimuli: the visual, audio, kinesthetic, and haptic cues emanating from the computer.  If the mother’s voice was the link connecting subjectivity with writing, humans with natural environments, then the computer’s beeps, clicks, and tones are the links connecting contemporary subjectivities to electronic environments, humans to the Computational Universe.”
Chapter 1: Intermediation: Textuality and the Regimes of Computation
•    Comparison of speech, writing, and code
•    Code: synecdoche for information
•    Emergence
o    25: “This term refers to properties that do not in here in the individual components of a system; rather, these properties come about from interactions between components.”
22: “Even if code is not originally ontological, it becomes so through these recursive feedback loops.  In Wetwares, Richard Doyle makes a similar observation about the belief that we will someday be able to upload our consciousness into computers and thereby effectively achieve immortality.  Doyle comments, ‘’Uploading,’ the desire to be wetware, makes possible a new technology of the self, one fractured by the exteriority of the future….Uploading seems to install discursive, material, and social mechanism for the anticipation of an externalized self, a techno-social mutation that is perhaps best characterized as a new capacity to be affected by, addicted to, the future.”
33: “’Remediation’ has the disadvantage of locating the starting for the cycles in a particular locality and medium, whereas ‘intermediation’ is more faithful to the spirit of multiple causality in emphasizing interactions among media.”
33: “I want to expand its denotations to include interactions between systems of representations, particularly language and code, as well as interactions between modes of representation, particularly analog and digital.  Perhaps most importantly, ‘intermediation’ also denotes mediating interfaces connecting humans with the intelligent machines that are our collaborators in making, storing, and transmitting informational processes and objects.”
Chapter 4: Translating Media
•    If the text is stored accurately on a second storage medium, the text remains the same though the signs for it are different
o    Braille v. Print versions: the text is the same but the sensory input is very different
•    “The materiality of an embodied text is the interaction of its physical characteristics with its signifying strategies.”
101: “With electronic texts there is a conceptual distinction—and often an actualized one—between storage and delivery vehicles, whereas with print the storage and delivery vehicles are one and the same.  With electronic texts, the data files may be on one server and the machine creating the display may be in another location entirely, which means that electronic text exists as a distributed phenomenon. The dispersion introduces many possible sources of variation into the production of electronic text that do not exist in the same way with print, for example, when a user’s browser displays a text with different colors than those the writer say on her machine when she was creating it.”
102: “Certainly the time lag is an important component of the electronic text, for it determines in what order the user will view the material.  Indeed, as anyone who has grown impatient with long load times knows, in many instances it determines whether the user will see the image at all.  These times are difficult to predict precisely because they depend on the individual computer’s processing speed, traffic on the Web, efficiency of data distribution on the hard drive, and other imponderables.  This aspect of electronic textuality—along with many others—cannot be separated from the delivery vehicles that produce it as a process with which the user can interact.”


De Montaigne’s “On Liars”

Michel de Montaigne
“On Liars”
Area: History of Memory and Memory Studies
•    Considering how necessary it is, Plato was right in calling memory a great and powerful goddess-in my country
•    They can see no difference between memory and intellect.
•    But they wrong me, for experience shows that, on the contrary, excellent memories are often coupled with feeble judgments.
•    For lack of memory is an intolerable defect in anyone who takes on the burden of the world’s affairs.
•    Again, my speech is consequently briefer, for the storehouse of the memory is generally better stocked with material than that of the invention. If my memory had been good, I should have deafened all my friends with my chatter, since any subject that calls out such powers as I have of argument and development warms and extends my eloquence.
•    Particularly dangerous are old men who retain the memory of past events but do not remember how often they have repeated them.
•    Not without reason is it said that no one who is not conscious of having a sound memory should set up to be a liar.
•    If liars make a complete invention, they apparently have much less reason to be afraid of tripping up, inasmuch as there is no contrary impression to clash with their fiction. But even this, being an empty thing that offers no hold, readily escapes from the memory unless it is a very reliable one.


Burnett’s How Images Think

Ron Burnett

How Images Think

Area: Digital Media


·                  MRIs and image quality: many issues arise in the relationship between images and diagnosis

·                  Middle space: combines the virtual and the real into an environment of visualization that has the potential to displace conventional notions of subjectivity

Xiv: “How Images Think explores the rich intersections of image creation, production, and communication within this context of debate about the mind and human consciousness.  In addition, the book examines cultural discourses about images and the impact of the digital revolution on the use of images in the communications process.”

Xviii: “However, a great deal of intelligence is being programmed into technologies and devices that use images as their main form of interaction and communications.  The screens that mediate the relationships humans have to the technologies that surround them have become increasingly sophisticated both in texture and detail as well as in content and what can and cannot be done with them.  I use the term image to refer to the complex set of interactions that constitute everyday life within image-worlds.”

Chapter 6: Humans—–Machines

·                  Rather than thinking about human and machine as a collapse, think of it as a convergence

·                  Computers have the capacity to talk to each other

·                  What do “listen” and “talk” mean with computer-computer communication?

·                  Humans transform machines into surrogates

125: “Communications networks to some degree are about autonomous relationships developed and maintained by machines with connections that are generally sustained without too much human intervention.  Of course, machines do not literally speak to each other.  They do communicate although the assumption is that humans mediate the interchange.  However, a great deal takes place that is not governed by humans even if they may have been the progenitors of the interaction.”

126: Can a machine feel pain? “On the one hand, computers are related to as if they have no bodies. On the other hand, when a hard disk crashes and wipes out its ‘memories,’ it also takes something from the humans who may have used it.”

Chapter 8: Computer Games and the Aesthetics of Human and Nonhuman Interaction

·                  There is intelligence in the game, but the question is does the game know?

·                  Technology has always been mapped into and onto human bodies

·                              And…human bodies have always been mapped into and onto technology

·                  Customization is the game

·                  Even though open source may be messy, writing code appears to be the most concrete of activities

·                  When playing video games, there are actually very few choices.  The “trick” to winning is to figure out the limitations

170: “The computer is a trope, a part-for-whole-figure, for a world of actors and actants and not a Thing Acting Alone.  Computers cause nothing, but the human and nonhuman hybrids troped by the figure of the information machine remake worlds.” (Haraway)

171: “Latour suggests that machines and humans form a collective and are continuously acting together in an associative chain of relationships that is only interrupted as people move to different levels of complexity in the process.”

175:  “Current frameworks for developing technological products reflect a limited conception of their role.  In designing such a product, the emphasis is placed on what can be preconceived about its use, as expressed in its functional specification, its optimization to meet specific functional needs, and the evaluation of its performance by predetermined metrics.  This perspective on design is not sufficient to address the agenda of cognitive technology; it takes too little account of the interaction between a technology, its users, and its environment.” (Beynon)

177: “When an individual says something to a friend and he or she responds, there is not direct way to fully comprehend all the intentions that governed the communication.  Instead, both parties agree by convention, habit, and the desire to understand each other that, to a certain degree, the gaps between them will not affect the content f the exchange.  Although the gaps are present, they are part of the process.  Awareness of the gaps, however, pulls the process of communications into a netacommunication, where individuals must develop an awareness of what works and what doesn’t.  They also have to be aware of the constraints that the gaps introduce into every part of the exchange.  It is the combination of exchange, awareness, and communications that produces additional spaces of interaction and conversation—these are third spaces that can only be examined by looking at all parts of the exchange.” (Bateson)

January 2019
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