Digital Memory

Masterclass with Simon Critchley
Fall 2017, SCI-Arc

Theatre of Memory from Giulio Camillo

"Through the art of memory, we learn to see ourselves from the perspective of the whole, from the standpoint of totality. In so doing, we become infinite, divinely human."[1]

    Human memory is not the way how we learn to see ourselves nowadays anymore. How do we get the memory back?  It has become outsourced and saved to external digital devices. Nowadays, they are translated into information files which can be subsequently stored, deleted and set into perspectives of the (de)materialization and (dis)embodiment of memory as everything which defines human beings to be remembered like.

    Relying on any kind of device has a long-term impact on the development of memories and human identity as such. Passively repeating information, such as repeatedly looking it up on the Internet, does not create a solid, lasting memory trace in the same way. People have become accustomed to using computer devices as an extension of their own brain‏.

    The process of gaining knowledge about ourselves can be reached by dialogue. As described by Plato, there is an ongoing dialogue in between Socrates and Phaedrus in ancient Greek philosophy. Writing, compare to rhetoric, is disabling learning process by outsourcing the knowledge. He argues that rhetoric is the main key to keep the memory as well as it directs the soul. The ability of speech develops through the dialogue (dialectics). Therefore, gaining a higher level of education for a human is by leading a dialogue, to internalize the memory through (Hegelian) dialectics. Can the human and a machine (where the memory is being outsourced) have a dialogue in order to gain absolute knowledge for a human?

    The Renaissance Memory Theatre from Giulio Camillo operates on the principles of the Internet. It stores information which can be recollected in order to gain knowledge. It can be shown as a spatial map filled with fragments of memory/data which in the perspective of the whole creates knowledge. In the same way, we can recall entire past actions and start creating the future ones.

    Memory Theatre is a constantly evolving perpetum mobile – machine which is not frozen in particular time but includes multiple histories. Pointing out, the Internet is constantly updating with developing technologies and stores all data (but it is not absolute truth). If a human is enabled to recollect all the memories, then becomes aware of the past in order to create new future. Is there a way of gaining absolute knowledge through dialogue- by asking the right questions?

1. Simon Critchley, Memory Theater (Other Press; November 17, 2015) 31