In one of those odd cases of Universal synchronicity, as I was struggling to write a blog about memory, my parents arrived the weekend just gone, bearing boxes of my ‘childhood memories’ that they had been saving for me and now wanted me to go through. As I write this blog, those boxes sit next to me on the desk, unopened. I expect for many people their immediate reaction would have been to dive straight in and revel in the nostalgia. For me though, my approach to memory seems to be much more about caution. I’m wary of what emotions a memory might trigger, will I be embarrassed? will I feel sad? Chances are that the feelings evoked will be pleasant ones but I prefer to be in control, to stabilise myself beforehand and to look through when I feel ready. It could be weeks before I get around to going through the boxes.
Although I suspect that this may be the minority approach to memory, I also suspect that it is far from uncommon. In relating my own personal perspective on memory to the Memory Machine, I can see that technology is increasingly becoming an important gatekeeper to memory. Take for example social media platforms such as Facebook, so much of our daily lives are now being stored on these; and these platforms are also taking advantage of these memories, a common feature is to highlight an ‘on this day’ memory. Yet, not always are these memories wanted, a reminder of a bereavement or break-up are quite common; not all memories are equal, they can be important whilst still being negative. It will be interesting in the Memory Machine workshops, and the development of the technology, to see these tensions discussed and see the role that technology can play in safeguarding both memory and an individual’s emotional state.
Dominic Price, Research Fellow, Horizon Digital Economy Research