Tuesday, May 15, 2012

too much memory / the internet as hyperthymesiac

piece at the Atlantic by Megan Garber on "making the internet more like our brains" and how "the next wave of digital products won't just be about archiving the web; they'll be about destroying the archive":

"Anti-archival tools provide a countervailing force to one of the defining features of the Internet: that, with its nearly infinite space, "save all" is its default setting. Without even trying, the Internet remembers. And that doesn't just mean that the comment you left on that Joss Whedon fan site that one time is still sitting there, emoticon-ed and gif-ed and captured for posterity within the all-knowing neurons of Google. It also means that the web, as a broad space, operates on both an assumption and an architecture of continuity. Within it, and all around it, archive is assumed. Even when we die ... there, still, we are.

"... But there are also drawbacks to digital omniscience. It's telling that people diagnosed with hyperthymesia have described their limitless memories not as blessings, but as burdens -- ones that are "non-stop, uncontrollable, and totally exhausting." Near-perfect recall of their experiences doesn't make these people smarter; it makes them miserable.

(Hyperthymesia (wiki says) is a syndrome in which individuals possess superior autobiographical memory... its two defining characteristics are 1) the person spends an abnormally large amount of time thinking about his or her personal past, and 2) the person has an extraordinary capacity to recall specific events from his or her personal past. Hyperthymesiacs can recall almost every day of their lives in near perfect detail, as well as public events that hold some personal significance... it takes the form of "uncontrollable associations", recollection occurring with out without hesitation or conscious effort)

now what did Jim say about this?"Speak in secret alphabets/Learn to forget"...

these bits (from Gerber's piece)

"when we talk about the Internet, we talk about feeds and flows and rivers and currents -- things determined by their dynamism and their lack of obvious containers....  The only problem, however, is that constant flux-and-flow is not actually how we humans are programmed to move through the world. We live in fits and starts, in cycles and phases, and we divide our time not just socially, in shared minutes and hours, but physically. We wake. We sleep. We have beginnings. We have endings.... When we disparage the digital environment as "overwhelming," what we're also faulting it for is its lack of a narrative. The Internet moves, but it doesn't necessarily move forward. It expands, but it doesn't necessarily follow any particular trajectory. It lacks, in that sense, a purpose. It lacks a plot. "

 reminded me (again, as so often) of Rem Koolhaas's "Junkspace". Specifically...

"Junkspace is often described as a space of flows, but that is a misnomer; flows depend on disciplined movement, bodies that cohere. Junkspace is a web without spider; although it is an architecture of the masses, each trajectory is strictly unique. Its anarchy is one of the last tangible ways in which we experience freedom. It is a space of collision, a container of atoms, busy, not dense... There is a special way of moving in junkspace, at the same time aimless and purposeful."

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