Enduring Ephemeral

By | November 4, 2014

This week I was inspired by Wendy Hui Kyong’s Enduring Ephemeral, or the Future is a Memory to think about the word Memory, and what response it evokes in us when it’s used both in a persona or a technological context. The concept of Memory, and how/what technology allows us to remember, is an idea I’ve come back to often in other classes and in my academic work as a whole. In particular, I have been fascinated with the ways technology can preserve in such a way that the thing itself never actually ceases to exist, and as is the case of technology like photography and recording technology, helps stop the degrading or decaying of a memory by allowing us to forever access and experience ( in 2-D at least) things we could have never been able to before, over longer periods of time. An example of this I always mention is the idea that all rock bands must compete for attention and fans with the Beatles, imagine what it would be like for classical musicians if we had recordings of Mozart or Bach to compare them with. This, however, is concerning memory as a human brain function, and how technology interacts with this function. In Hui Kyong’s piece she starts off with a discussion of memory in the technological realm:

Memory, with its constant degeneration, does not equal storage; although artificial memory has historically combined the transitory with the permanent, the passing with the stable, digital media complicates this relationship by making it permanent into an enduring ephemeral, creating unforeseen degenerative links between humans and machines…this conflation of memory with storage is not due to some inherent technological feature, but rather due to how everyday usage and parlance arrests memory and its degenerative possibilities in order to support dreams of superhuman digital programmability. Unpacking the theoretical implications of constantly disseminated and regenerated digital content…these dreams create, rather than solve, archival nightmares. They proliferate non simultaneous enduring ephemerals. (148-149)

With memory being equated to storage, the utopian dream becomes that somehow technology solves the issue of our memories being non-reliable and fleeting. However, the mind forgets as a biological function, something we evolved to need in order to live. The conflict here is the “enduring ephemerals” which are the byproduct of this technology- If we cannot forget, and if information and data does not decay or somehow die, where does it all go, how do we categorize or store, and what does this mean for the progression of time/history/culture as something linear?

One thought on “Enduring Ephemeral

  1. shannon Post author

    Thanks, Annie! Not only does the mind forget as we “externalize” memory — but the technological externalizations, all those storage devices, create multiple “versions” of memory. They decay, rot, represent different “save times,” different refresh rates, etc. This mix of temporalities makes us wonder which “memory” is captured in our storage devices.


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