Paper accepted – Memory programmes: the retention of collective life

I am pleased to share that I have recently had a paper accepted for Cultural Geographies, which will form part of a theme section/issue co-edited by Sarah Elwood and Katharyne Mitchell concerning “Technology, memory and collective knowing”–stemming from a session at the 2013 AAG in Los Angeles.

The paper is entitled ‘Memory programmes: the retention of collective life’ and builds upon a theoretical conference paper I gave at the Conditions of Mediation conference in 2013.

The aim of the article is to interrogate some key elements of how software has become a means of ‘industrialising’ memory, following Bernard Stiegler. This industrialisation of memory involves conserving and transmitting extraordinary amounts of data. Data that is both volunteered and captured in everyday life, and operationalised in large-scale systems. Such systems constitute novel sociotechnical collectives which have begun to condition how we perform our lives such that they can be recorded and retained.

To investigate the programmatic nature of our mediatised collective memory the article has three parts. The first substantive section looks at a number of technologies as means of capturing, operating upon and retaining our everyday activities in ‘industrial’ scale systems of memory. Particular attention is paid to the quasi-autonomous agency of these systems, that appear to operate at a scale and speed that exceeds a human capacity of oversight.

In the second section I look at the mnemonic capabilities of networked technologies of digital mediation as ‘mnemotechnologies’. Following Stiegler, these are technologies and technical supports that both support and reterritorialise what we collectively understand about our everyday lives.

The conclusion of the article addresses the ways in which an ‘industrialisation of memory’ both challenges and transforms the ways in which we negotiate collective life.

I have copied below the abstract and I’d be happy to share pre-publication copies, please contact me via email.

Abstract:

This article argues that, in software, we have created quasi-autonomous systems of memory that influence how we think about and experience life as such. The role of mediated memory in collective life is addressed as a geographical concern through the lens of ‘programmes’. Programming can mean ordering, and thus making discrete; and scheduling, making actions routine. This article addresses how programming mediates the experience of memory via networked technologies. Materially recording knowledge, even as electronic data, renders thought mentally and spatially discrete and demands systems to order it. Recorded knowledge also enables the ordering of temporal experience both as forms of history, thus the sharing of culture, and as the means of planning for futures. We increasingly retain information about ourselves and others using digital media. We volunteer further information recorded by electronic service providers, search engines and social media. Many aspects of our collective lives are now gathered in cities (via CCTV, cellphone networks and so on) and retained in databases, constituting a growing system of memory of parts of life otherwise forgotten or unthought. Using examples, this article argues that, in software, we have created industrialised systems of memory that influence how we think about living together.

Keywords: memory, technology, mnemotechnics, industrialisation, programming, Stiegler

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