The human memory can be fallible. Our memories can be distorted by all forms of interference, including hindsight and reinterpretation. In a session organised by the North London branch of the British Computer Society two speakers discussed what it means to remember – and forget – in a digital world.
What is the relationship between human memory and the artefacts that help us preserve memories? In non-literate, oral traditions, exact verbatim recall is rare – and in fact serves no purpose. The oral tradition of history and storytelling is creative and fluid. In literate societies the written word can support recall – or disprove our memories. Memory mediated by technology confronts us with ‘the truth’.
In the digitised world, our past never dies. Even if not taken to the extreme levels of ‘lifelogging’ (where individuals convert their life’s activity into digital forms), we are all creating an increasing number of records which will last and which we will share in new ways.
The artefacts which we use to help us reminisce have moved from the physical to the digital. The value of many artefacts – particularly those we inherit from older generations – lies in the stories attached to them. The move from physical objects’ (think vinyl records or hardcopy books) to digital objects means our legacy will increasingly be our manipulation of digital content (e.g. playlists).
But does a digital life preserve the ‘right’ things? We can capture our ‘life data’ quite easily but how about our emotional life? How can we ensure we all have the right to ‘informational self determination’ in a world where social digital sharing has changed the very nature of ownership and our understanding of ‘privacy’?.
The speakers at the event were:
Dr Kieron O’Hara, Senior Research Fellow (Electronics and Computer Science) University of Southampton. Co-author of The Spy in the Coffee Machine
Richard Banks, Principal Interaction Designer, Microsoft Research. Author of The Future of Looking Back