Passed my comps, took a long-ish break, and now I’m back in the flow of research, reminding myself of all the things I just read which I’ve already forgotten.
Apropos the idea of forgetting, Geert Lovink has some insightful comments that summarize many of the issues around digital memory that came up in my readings.Yes, Google (and others) are archiving our every action online, and we do need better privacy protection and, perhaps, some systems of automatic deletion and programmatic forgetting. But simultaneously, all of this digital memory is quite fragile; if we no longer have hard-copy documents or photo albums, a large part of our memories could be lost to hard drive crashes or the bankruptcy of web hosting companies. Even when the data is still supposedly available, it can be distorted by search engines or interpreted differently by other humans. In the future, remembering won’t necessarily be any easier or harder, just very different.
We do not need to remember to forget. Regulatory regimes, market forces and History will all too soon wipe out the world’s data centres. We do not need digital abstinence to get there. It’s a banal observation that we not delete enough. An expiration date for information could be useful. It is indeed interesting to design information decay, or rusting, as Mayer-Schönberger proposes. But let’s not get attracted to the romantic politics of ‘let us remember to forget’. How we shape and organize our memory is determined by cultural politics and education. Instead of focusing on forgetting it’s much better to practice (and study) new shapes of memory.
Furthermore, we must recognize that the new shapes of memory will not be the same for all people. Individuals with greater facility with and access to technology will have an advantage here–more easily able to create, delete, and manipulate “memories” for themselves and others.