Joanne McNeil: “My summer is the sound of an American flag and a Union Jack whipping together in the wind at my grandfather’s house in Wellfleet. I visit every year. Every summer that sound. I think of the season as a jangling symphony in my head of flags, crickets, wind chimes, waves, and the interiors of some odd shells washed up on Marconi Beach. I have photographs to keep these memories but with the ubiquity of photography, images fail to capture special moments the way they did when a picture was something you kept in shoebox on a shelf someplace. But field recording, audio of environments, preserves more of the elusive qualities of an experience. It is just as easy as taking photos— if you’ve got an iPhone, you’ve got the Voice Memos app. This is why I’m encouraging someone to build a product as simple as Instagram for our field recordings.”
Mark Fischetti: “What about effects on memory? Isn’t part of memory’s purpose to craft a cohesive narrative of your life? The building of memories helps make sense of what happens to us.”
Sherry Turkle: “That’s what I am interested in trying to learn. I’d be very interested in teaming up with psychologists who study how much you remember right after an event, if you’ve been wearing Google Glass versus if you’re just relying on your memory. Because Google Glass allows you to defer to another day, do you stop paying attention? And does that undermine your memory? I don’t think we know that yet. To me there’s a question of: Are you curating or are you evacuating? I hear more people saying to me: ‘It’s one less thing for me to worry about’. The last person I interviewed who wore Google Glass said: ‘I don’t have to worry about my memories anymore; they’ll take care of themselves now’. And I’m thinking, that is really not the point of an attentive life experience, of being present in the moment. But I don’t want to take a position against photography or things that help you remember your life. I don’t think there’s a simple story to tell here.”
When beloved celebrities died in an earlier era, we rushed home and gathered around our television sets. Now we stare at our smartphones on the street, reading posts, watching clips, maybe even sharing a memory or emotion of our own. In the age of social media, everyone is an obituary writer. Part of the magic of movies and television has always been their ability to create the feeling that you actually know the people you’re watching. That fantasy has become more powerfully enabled by the rise of Facebook and Twitter, which creates a direct connection between celebrities and their fans.
Steve Ranger: “…whereas previously embarrassing stories about an individual would have been printed in newspapers and then forgotten (existing only in a yellowing copy of an old paper, or in our own fallible memories), the internet means these stories are visible every time someone searches for their name. This is what Europe’s right to be forgotten tries to remedy — to take the undeserved sting out of these ancient stories. It goes some way towards creating a half-life for information in an age when digital technology allows us to retain everything forever. There are some very limited scenarios – such as those involving spent convictions which would not have to be disclosed normally – where a right to be forgotten makes sense. But to me, beyond that, it’s very hard to see why information which is fair and accurate should be removed from view… We need a better understanding of what the right to be forgotten means before we start turning search indexes — our outsourced collective memory — into Swiss cheese. The right to be forgotten embodies one of the most profound challenges we face. Humans are by design forgetting machines; our fallible grey matter urges us on by helping us to forget old pains, and by preventing us to from perfectly replaying happy memories over and over again. But now we have to deal with the consequences of having the capability to remember almost everything for all time.”
Julia Vowles: ‘Of course, memory is at the foundation of humanity. Memory builds truth, truth brings justice, and justice brings peace. These are the fundamental pillars of human society. Within these pillars, the right to privacy and, in Europe, the right to personal data, are embedded, harmonised, legally-recognised human rights. And so we come to the hard sociopolitical problem at the heart of the so-called “right to be forgotten”. It is not about the search engines, online services, Google, or Wikipedia. It is about the value humanity ascribes to them as purveyors of “truth”, of “history”, and of “memory”. It is about confronting what they really are. These services offer catalogues, or maps, of human knowledge, sentiments, joys, sorrows, and venom. But they operate under fundamentally privatised, economic drivers. They are a black box. They are open to manipulation, to abuse, to blocking and censorship. These algorithmic machines of so-called truth are not unbiased, dumb, accidental, or natural’.
Wikipedia’s founder Jimmy Wales has revealed new details about what he describes as the site’s “censorship” under the EU’s “right to be forgotten” laws. Wales revealed that Google has been asked to remove five links to Wikipedia in the last week. Now the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit group which runs the collaboratively edited encyclopaedia, has posted the notices of removal from Google online. Among the articles removed from search results are an image of a young man playing a guitar, a page about the former criminal Gerry Hutch, and a page about the Italian gangster Renato Vallanzasca. Speaking at the launch of Wikimedia’s transparency report, Wales attacked people who would use the “right to be forgotten” ruling to remove links to Wikipedia.
“It is a nostalgic time right now, and photographs actively promote nostalgia. Photography is an elegiac art, a twilight art. Most subjects photographed are, just by virtue of being photographed, touched with pathos. An ugly or grotesque subject may be moving because it has been dignified by the attention of the photographer. A beautiful subject can be the object of rueful feelings, because it has aged or decayed or no longer exists. All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.”—Susan Sontag, On Photography, 1977
“The city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the corners of the streets, the gratings of the windows, the bannisters of the steps, the antennae of the lightening rods, the poles of the flags, every segment marked in turn with scratches, indentations, scrolls.”—Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities (Harcourt, 1972, p. 11)