I am really enjoying Clive Thompson’s book Smarter Than You Think. This read is serving a huge purpose in my Master’s journey. As part of this learning, I am reading many articles and sorting through conflicting research, and who knew that research papers might be a little on the dry side!?! Smarter Than You Think provides the story of the research, it draws me in to the lives of REAL people using technology in innovative ways and provides me with ideas and understandings that I am struggling to unearth in the data provided by articles. Don’t misunderstand me; this book is brimming with clearly referenced facts and data! However, the data is artfully woven into story, it emerges as a relevant, supporting detail, but the characters and their actions are the main players holding my interest and engaging me with information in a lively way.
I’ve also enjoyed our #tiebc book club meetings on alternating Wednesday evenings. Thank you to everyone involved – your stories and connections help me to expand my thinking and learn in novel ways.
Chapter 2: We, The Memorious
This chapter describes the phenomena of “lifelogging” – capturing every moment of life digitally, through cameras, voice recorders, etc. I connected with the author’s description of the “quintessential modern dilemma” of experiencing a moment in time versus capturing that moment digitally. All too often I can recall being filled with regret that I didn’t record a moment in time, or take more pictures of a person or a beloved pet. But, I also wonder if pausing to take out a recording device to capture that moment; to separate myself from the moment by allowing technology to be the medium through which I experienced that moment would diminish the magic, the power, or the emotion of that particular time? I am lucky to have had so many moments that I value, and I worry about losing these memories over time. And we know that humans lose those fine details, or we re-write our memories unintentionally.
The author explains that memory is an active entity – it requires work. Our new approach to memory is far more passive, we record things quickly, jot digital notes, voice memo our grocery lists, and take pictures everywhere. We also share these memories expansively, assuring ourselves that everyone will want to remember this amazing meal that we enjoyed at a particular restaurant!
How do we catalogue and sort these memories? If we begin archiving everything (text messages, pictures, emails, contact information, medical histories, facts about everyone in our lives and the important dates around them, our conversations, the minutiae of each day), how do we store and retrieve this information? Or do we even try? And, what about the things that we want to forget? I am grateful that my awkward adolescence was captured primarily by photos and faulty human memory, as our current youth will grow up in a time where their most embarrassing moments will be Google-able. My peers will (hopefully) forget that time that I…, but my students may end up with their mistakes on an endless loop on Vine.
Memories are precious to each person, and sharing these memories is how we tell the stories of our lives. A more common occurrence now is our experiences showing up in another person’s digital feed. We appear in the background of others’ stories. By venturing out in public, we seem to enter into an understanding that our movements are for public consumption. Cameras are everywhere!
I don’t think that there is an easy answer to our new reality of memory in a digital age. There are clearly pros and cons; it depends on your situation, your needs at the time and the content being curated. The final quote from this chapter resonated with me: “Our ancestors learned how to remember; we’ll learn how to forget.”