17 July 2017

Remembering & Memories: there's an app for that...

As we've posted about before, the adoption of new media and technology in our lives has an impact on our social lives in many interesting ways. In many ways, new technological platforms -- such as digital communications and social media -- are already embedded with certain cultural assumptions. At the same time, there are always unexpected outcomes and unforeseen ways in which the incorporation of new media and technology shape our relationships with others, our environments, and ourselves.

Facebook Memories
This relationship between cultural actors -- including the new digital "memory" systems in our lives -- is what Molly Sauter (PhD student in Communications Studies) addresses in Instant Recall (27 June 2017, Real Life). In this short analytical piece, Sauter addresses three types of memory system and how they have shaped our memories, and the act of remembering: predictive text, "data doppelgangers constructed for ad targeting," and more particularly, reminiscence databases (e.g. Facebook Memories).

Sauter explores how digital evocations of memory differ from physical ones, such as "yearbooks, photographs, cars, houses, trees, gravestones."
These physical evocations age, and their value and veracity as objects of testimony ages with them and us. They date, they fade, they display their distance from the events they are connected to and their distance from us. Digital memory objects, on the other hand, although they might abruptly obsolesce, do not age in the same way. They remain flatly, shinily omni-accessible, represented to us cleanly both in the everlasting ret-conned context of their creation and consumption. 
Contrast this algorithmic "remembering" with how another contributor to Real Life describes the nostalgic recreation of community online through her mother's experience using Facebook in "Post, Memory" (7 July 2016, Real Life). Kelli Korducki's mother had grown up in a small Salvadoran village, once decimated by civil war, and now rebuilt online as a closed Facebook group called “Memorias de ______,” boasting "a membership in the low hundreds, which is impressive given the village’s reasonably small size." 

In this digital community space, "long-lost neighbors and relatives resumed contact after decades of quiet separation, strewn from Virginia to Montreal to Los Angeles and points above, below, and in between." On Facebook, members and diaspora descendants of this scattered community came together, sharing and creating artifacts of the long-gone community, juxtaposed with images and details of the living village today.

What do these different insights onto the intersections of memory or the act of remembering with social media tell us about everyday life? How might these examples be useful in discussing social relationships, memory, cultural artifacts, or even imagined communities?

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