Posts Tagged ‘Memory


Kirschenbaum’s Mechanisms

Matthew Kirschenbaum
Mechanisms: New Media and the Forensic Imagination
Area: Digital Media

•    Hysteresis: persistence of a magnetic recording over time
•    “The problem with focusing on texts is that no one can read a text—not until it is incarnated in the material forma of a book” (Jonathan Rose)
xii: “On the one hand we have ‘Agrippa,’ an electronic text that must contend not only with its notoriously fragile digital pedigree, but which was actually intended to disappear from sight, yet is one of the most stable and accessible electronic objects I know.  On the other hand is the extreme physical trauma of the World Trade Center collapse, yet electronic data emerges intact from its ruins.”
xvii: “Information technology is among the most reliable content domains on Wikipedia, given the high interests of such topics among Wiki’s readership and the consequent scrutiny they tent to attract.  Moreover, the ability to examine page histories on Wiki allows a user to recover the editorial record of a particular entry, with every revision to the text date- and time-stamped and versioned.  Attention to these editorial histories can help users exercise sound judgment as to whether or not the information before them at any given moment is controversial, and I have availed myself of that functionality when deciding whether or not to rely on Wiki.  Wiki itself, whose developers leverage their software’s content modeling to expose document histories with a precision, transparency, and granularity unprecedented in printed publications outside the realm of genetic editions and textual scholarship, is a working example of the mechanisms I discuss herein.”
Intro: “Awareness of the Mechanism”
4: “Computers themselves were initially engines of prediction and prognostication, not recollection and storage; they only became so with the advent of the so-called von Neumann model and the somewhat later addition of random access disk memory, which enabled reliable real-time, nonsequential access to large reserves of information.”
5: “Crucially, storage today is both an accessory, something you hold in your hand or slip into your pocket (your iPod or memory stick), but is also increasingly disembodied and dematerialized as we approach tetrabyte-scale disks where users are no longer constrained in their information retention by the capacity of their hard drives.”
11: “Bits are—in other words—symbols to be set and reset, set and reset, on again and off again, over and over again.  Where as forensic materiality rests upon the potential for individualization inherent in matter, a digital environment is an abstract projection supported and sustained by its capacity to propagate the illusion (or call it a working made) of immaterial behavior: identification without ambiguity, transmission without loss, repetition without originality.”
Chapter 1: “Every Contact Leaves a Trace”: Storage, Inscription, and Computer Forensics
34: “I am belaboring these details to make the point that as a teenage computer user I had unself-consciously worked with storage media whose material qualities were very particular but which differ markedly from what would be the norm today.  Since even routine chores like disk defragmentation are performed far less frequently on the current generation of hard drives, storage has become ever more of an abstraction, defined only by a volume letter (“C”), a graphic hard drive icon, or a pie chart visualization of space remaining.  Greater and greater storage capacity will only serve to further dematerialize the media as their finite physical boundaries slip past the point of any practical concepts.”


Derrida’s Archive Fever

Jacques Derrida
Archive Fever: A Freudian Impression
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies

•    Arkhe: 2 names at once—commencement and the commandment
o    There where things commence
o    There where authority is exercised
•    Order is not longer assured
2: “It is thus, in this domiciliation, in this house arrest, that archives take place.  The dwelling, this place where they dwell permanently, marks this institutional passage from the private to the public, which does not always mean from the secret to the nonsecret.”
5: “Sigmund Freud, the proper name, on the one hand, and, on the other, the invention of psychoanalysis: project of knowledge, of practice and of institution, community, family, domiciliation, consignation, ‘house’ or ‘museum,’ in the present state of its archivization.  What is in question is situated precisely between the two.”
•    An eco-nomic archive in this double sense: it keeps, it puts in reverse, it saves, but in an unnatural fashion
•    Where does the archive commence? This is the question of the archive
•    The death drive works to destroy the archive: on the condition of effacing but also with a view to effacing its own ‘proper’ traces
o    Devours before producing on the outside
•    *See Baudrillard’s Vital Illusion: the museumification of everything before it can even exist
•    There is no archive without a certain exteriority; without an outside
o    Assures the possibility of memorization, repetition, reproduction
•    This compulsion is indissociable from the death drive
•    The archive always works against itself
•    The archival model is to represent on the outside memory as internal archivization
•    The machine, and consequently, representation, is death and finitude within the psyche
o    The machine has begun to resemble memory
•    The future consists of a transformation of archivization techniques
•    The archivization produces as it much as it records the event
o    Psychoanalysis wouldn’t be what it was with e-mail
•    What is no longer archived in the same way is no longer lived in the same way
7: “In this way, the exergue has at once an institutive and a conservative function: the violence of a power which at once posits and conserves the law, as the Benjamin of Zur Kritk der Gewalt would say. What is at issue here, starting with the exergue, is the violence of the archive itself, as archive, as archival violence.”
11: “But, the point must be stressed, this archiviolithic force leaves nothing of its own behind.  AS the death drive is also, according to the most striking worlds of Freud himself, an aggression and a destruction drive, it not only incites forgetfulness, amnesia, the annihilation of memory, as mneme or anamnesis, but also commands the radical effacement, in truth and eradication, of that which can never be reduced to mneme or to anamnesis, that is, the archive, consignation, the documentary or monumental apparatus as hypomnema, mnemotechnical supplement or representative, auxiliary or memorandum.  Because the archive, if this word or this figure can be stabilized so as to take on a signification, will never be either memory or anamnesis or spontaneous, alive and internal experience.  On the contrary: the archive takes place at the place of originary and structural breakdown of the said memory.”
16: “One can dream or speculate about the geo-techno-logical shocks which would have made the landscape of the psychoanalytic archive unrecognizable for the past century if, to limit myself to these indications, Freud, his contemporaries, collaborators and immediate disciples, instead of writing thousands of letters by had, had had access to MCI or AT&T telephonic credit cards, portable tape recorders, computers, printers, faxes, televisions, teleconferences, and above all E-mail.”
•    Does it change anything that Freud didn’t know about the computer?
•    We don’t have a theory of the archive, only an impression of it
25: “I asked myself what is the moment proper to the archive, if there is such a thing, the instant of archivization strictly speaking, which is not, and I will come back to this, so-called live or spontaneous memory, but rather a certain hypomnesic and prosthetic experience of the technical substrate.”


Ansell Pearson’s Viroid Life

Keith Ansell Pearson
Viroid Life: Perspectives on Nietzsche and the Transhuman Condition
Area: Digital Media

• Neo-Lamarckism: (demands giving ourselves ‘over’ to the future) in blind faith as a quasi-Heidegerrian destiny (only a machine can save us)
• Non-affective machines: thought exists without a body
o No future of/for invention: no future at all
• Nietzschean conception of the transhuman condition
• Thought needs to embark on a new negotiation with technology
• Technics is both the sign/mark of human distinctive futurity and the source of the artificial character of human inventions and evolutions
• D&G: rhizomatic/machinic becomings don’t so much place ‘in’ evolution as create or invent it, so marking ‘of’ evolution as an event of genuine becoming
o Bergson’s creative evolution
• Guattari: within the machinic universe beings have only the status of virtual entities; that is they are sites of becoming in which what becomes is always something alien
• The task of working through the transhuman condition thus involves the task of thinking beyond the ‘beyond’
1: “In this volume of essays I question, problematize, overturn, revalue, announce, renounce, advocate, interrogate, affirm, deny, celebrate, critique, the ‘transhuman condition,’ exploring the human as a site of contamination and abduction by alien forces and rendering, in the process, the phenomenon polyvalent and polysemous.”
3: “In 1979 Lyotard defined the ‘postmodern condition’ as ‘incredulity’ in the face of those grand or meta-narratives which have served to provide human existence with teleological meaning and significance, so that the lament of the loss of meaning in postmodernity boils down to mourning the fact that knowledge is now no longer principally narrative.”
4: “However, these new realities demand not an impetuous abandonment of a thinking and valuing of the ‘human’ condition, but rather a radical re-examination and revaluation, in which one would show the extent to which this condition has always been a matter of invention and reinvention, that is, always a matter of the transhuman. The grand narrative today is likely to take the form of a facile quasi-Hegelianism in which the rise of the machine is construed in linear and perfectionist terms: the ever-growing inhuman character of ‘technology’ resides in the ‘simple’ fact that it is machines that are proving to be more successful in creating an adequate response to the tasks laid down by evolution that the creatures whose existence first gave rise to it.”
5: “To declare that technology amounts to ‘the pursuit of life by means other than life’ is not to provide insight into the past and future condition of evolution but to encourage blindness regarding matters of life and death within late-capital. Such a claim deprives us of any genuinely interesting and critical in-humanity.”
Chapter 1: Loving the Poison: The Memory of the Human and the Promise of the Overhuman
• Deleuze uses Freud’s notion of mnemonic trace: consciousness born at the site of a memory trace
• Deleuze: in Nietzsche and Freud we find two themes of memory:
o Traces of memory become so indelibly stamped on his conscious that he is no longer capable of action (which requires forgetting). Not that his only action is reaction; rather, he’s unable to act out reaction since he feels his reaction, making it endless
o Active memory that no longer rests on traces; no longer simply a function of the past, but has become transformed into an activity of the future
• Interpreting and deciphering are the process of production itself
o We repeat the past to discharge and create beyond/beyond ourselves
• Deleuze: time as subject, or subjectification, is called memory
o Absolute memory endlessly forgotten and reconstituted
23: “Memory is viewed as functioning in terms of a punctual organization in which the present refers simultaneously to a horizontal line that captures the flow of time, moving from an old present to an actual present, and to a vertical line that captures the order of time, going from the present to the past, or to the representation of the old present.”
24: “The opposition drawn between ‘memory’ and ‘becoming’ not only rests on an unmediated privileging of becoming, but also ignores the illumination that Deleuze’s earlier work brings to bear on the source of the tremendous power of memory. Becoming is inconceivable without memory, including a technics of memory, in which the ‘product’ always exceeds the law of production.”
26: “As Deleuze maintains in his study of Proust, memory works as a ‘tool’ – one not simply subject to a willful manipulation and exploitation of the human, all to human kind that can be placed in the service of an overcoming. The subject ‘of’ memory is nothing other than this self-overcoming. Thus, he can contend that the orientation of Proust’s work is not the past and the discoveries of memory, but rather the future and the progress of learning.”


Luria’s The Mind of a Mnemonist

A.R. Luria
The Mind of a Mnemonist: A Little Book about a Vast Memory
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies

•    Synaesthesia: “S” could remember because all his senses were incorporated in each memory
•    Problem of forgetting:
o    56-7: “During the early stages, his attempts to work out a technique of forgetting were of an extremely simple nature.  Why, he reasoned, couldn’t he use some external means to help him forget—write down what he no longer wished to remember?  […] As he saw it, once he had written a thing down, he would have no need to remember it; but if he were without means of writing it down, he’d commit it to memory […] Tried burning the slips of paper so that he’d forget the useless contents of them, but this didn’t work. Not even fire could wipe out the traces he wanted to obliterate!”


Churchland’s Neurophilosophy

Patricia Churchland

Neurophilosophy: Toward a Unified Science of the Mind-Brain

Area: Digital Media

·        Is it possible to have one grand, unified theory of the mind-brain?

·        Reevaluation of the significance of neuroscientific and psychological findings for philosophical research

·        Work in computer-science and computer modeling of networks has helped to generate concepts of information processing representation and computation that take us well beyond the earlier ideas and provide questions and answers of subintrospective mind-brain processes

·        No large-scale theory of brain function

o       Doesn’t mean there are no theories, just no Governing Paradigm in the Kuhnian sense

·        Intertheoretic reduction, representation, computation, and processes

368-373: Co-evolution of Research on Memory and Learning

·        Memory is at least as bad as a virtual governor

o       “The entire system functions, from an input/output point of view, as a single generator with a greatly increased frequency reliability, or, as control engineers express it, with a single, more powerful, ‘virtual governor’” (355).

·        H.M.=problem of control

o       Can initiate and successfully complete an extended intellectually demanding task even though he has no awareness that he has the knowledge or that he’s executing his knowledge on the task at hand.

·        H.M. has moved some neuropsychologists to postulate two memory systems

o       Descriptive memory: capacity to verbally report recollections

o       Procedural memory: capacity to exhibit a learned skill

3: “The sustaining conviction of this book is that top-down strategies (as characteristic of philosophy, cognitive psychology, and artificial intelligence research) and bottom-up strategies (as characteristic of the neurosciences) for solving the mysteries of mind=brain function should not be pursued in icy isolation from one another.  What is envisaged instead is a rich interanimation between the two, which can be expected to provoke a fruitful co-evolution of theories, models, and methods, where each informs, corrects, and inspires others.”

5: “For one think, neuroscience has progressed to the point where we can begin to theorize productively about basic principles of whole brain function and hence to address the questions concerning how the brain represents, learns, and produces behavior.  Second, many philosophers have moved away from the view that philosophy is an a priori discipline in which philosophers can discover a priori principles that neuroscientific theories had better honor on peril of being found wrong.”


Carruthers’ Book of Memory

Mary Carruthers
The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture
Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies

•    Learning can be seen as a process of acquiring smarter and richer mnemonic devices to represent information
•    Divide the material to be remembered into pieces short enough to be recalled in single units and to key these into some sort of rigid easily reconstructible order
o    This provides one with a “random-access” memory system: immediately and accurately find bits of information
•    Concern with educated memory
•    Memoria: integral part of virtue of prudence
o    Makes moral judgment possible
10: “A work is not truly read until one has made it part of oneself—that process constitutes a necessary stage of its ‘textualization.’  Merely running one’s eyes over the written pages is not reading at all, for the writing must be transferred into memory, from graphemes on parchment or papyrus or paper to images written in one’s brain by emotion and sense.”
Chapter 1: Models for the Memory
•    Memory is a central feature of knowledge
o    Plato: recollection
o    Aristotle: the agent of building experience
•    The proof of a good memory lies not in the retention, but the ability to move about it instantly, directly, and securely
•    Recollection can happen:
o    Naturally = formally
o    Artificially = associatively (more efficient for mass amounts of material)
•    Partialness is also a characteristic of memory
•    Thesaurus refers both to what is in the strong box, the “treasures,” as when Augustine speaks of the treasures of countless images in his memory
31: “The ancients began from the twin assumptions that the mind already writes when it stores up its experience in representations, and, as a corollary, that the graphic expression of such representations is not an event of particular importance, at least for ‘ways of thinking about things—no more important that he sound of an individual’s voice is to his or her ability to use language.  From this viewpoint, the symbolic representations that we call writing are no more than cues or triggers for the memorial ‘representations,’ also symbolic, upon which human cognition is based.  And to mistake one sort of think for the other would be a significant error.  Writing something down cannot change in any significant way our mental representation of it, for it is the mental representation that gives birth to the written form, not vice versa.”
Chapter 2: Descriptions of the Neuropsychology of Memory
•    Aristotle: two processes of memory: storage and recollection
o    Both = memoria
•    The concept of ‘intellectual memory’ is attributed by Thomas Aquinas to Augustine
o    No human is capable of thinking entirely abstractly without some sort of signifying image
o    All memory images have an emotional component acquired during the process of its formation
•    Dreams: Aristotle: memory phantasm
o    In sleep, the consciousness isn’t functioning
•    Personal memory = subject to re-creation and inaccuracy
•    Rote memory = depends on unchangingness (ex: 7 x 6 = 42)
51: “Animals have memories too, but only of discrete experiences – they cannot generalize or predict on the basis of what they remember.  But concepts ‘are not retained in the sense part of the soul, but rather in the body-soul unity, since sense memory is an organic act.’ Human memory is thus both material, as it retains the impress of ‘likenesses,’ and yet more than that, for people can remember opinions and judgments, and predict things, based upon their memories.”
56: “The phantasms themselves are ‘movements started by actual sensations,’ and memory is, in definitions deriving from Aristotle, a delayed motion that continues to exist in the soul.’”
58: “Aristotle says that the mental images which come in dreams arise spontaneously, not in response to a controlled process like recollection; in fact this is their chief difference form the memory-images that are subject of my study here.  Dream-images are created by the vis imaginativa, as are all phantasms.  They are in the same class as ‘after images,’ hallucinations, and other irrational images, the product of aroused, imbalanced emotions (as perception is distorted by anger or lust) or of raw sense-data unformed by judgment (as when we ‘see’ the land move as we ride past it).  Such images are themselves just sense-data, aisthemata, rather than being the imprint of a sense impression after some time has elapsed, Aristotle’s basic definition of a memory-phantasm.”



Sigmund Freud
The Interpretation of Dreams
The Unconscious

Area: History of Rhetoric and Memory Studies

Interpretation of Dreams
•    Patient: Irma
•    Previously day—starting point
•    Reproduction of an earlier event
•    Mind connected to past events with the ability to recall with precision
•    Fulfillment of wishes started by the events of the previous evening

The Unconscious
•    Repression lies not in annihilation, but in the preventing of ideas becoming conscious
•    572: “Freud can confidently assert that the mind, which appears so chaotic, contradictory, beyond causation, is ruled by inexorable laws.  Mental events are like pearls on an invisible chain, a chain largely invisible precisely because many of the links are unconscious.”
•    574: “In support of there being an unconscious psychical state, that at any given moment consciousness includes only a small content, so that the greater part of what we call conscious knowledge must in any case be for very considerable periods of time in a state of latency, that is to say, of being psychically unconscious.”
•    Latent memories
o    “Latent recollections can no longer be described as psychical, but that they correspond to residues of somatic processes from which what is psychical can be once more arrive.”
•    Are latent states of mental life conceived of as conscious mental or physical ones?
•    Other people’s consciousness can only be considered through analogy
•    “We understand very well how to interpret in other people the same acts which we refuse to acknowledge as being mental in ourselves.”
•    The “psychical”
•    When a thought passes from unconscious → conscious, the first reaction will be a rejection of the repressed idea
•    Unconscious is timeless—time is bound up in the conscious

February 2019
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