A few weeks ago I found myself at the centre of my family dining table, squished between relatives, and surrounded by food. It was a ‘get together’ with family, thus the menu was better than the usual boring platter of pasta. The aroma of sweet onion poured through the room as my father presented a dish of Pasta Genovese (a recipe that stews for eight hours), it was one of those moments – the scent and taste pulled me back to Italy 2003, that is, the last time I ate the dish to such a calibre (bravo dad!). Hence, this scenario brings me to this week’s topics of memory, time and perception. The notion of memory being evoked through sensory reactions (such as my example) gives weight to Marcel Proust’s “involuntary memory” – memory that is unintentionally triggered by something (e.g. taste, smell etc), generating a rather vivid moment, so much so that “it is almost as if you are there”, in the place you created the memory (Collins 2012).
These sensations build a relationship between our mind and the environment and convey how our memories are indistinguishably connected to our external surroundings, as described by Stiegler (n.d.), “a part of ourselves is outside of us”. Stiegler (n.d.) proposes technical supports are what jog our “natural memory” and provide the context for all memory. He therefore suggests that the history of humans and memory is no longer in the sphere of genetic evolution but rather that of technical evolution (Stiegler 2006).
This proposes that we are entrenched and tied to the external world via mind, memory and perception. However, in essence with Stiegler, by aiding our cognitive process through reliance on technologies, e.g. a GPS for directions, or mobile phone for storage (e.g. numbers), we detach ourselves from our natural (internal) memory. In turn, risking and losing our knowledge as we become ever more dependent on technologies as a memory source (stiegler n.d.). I believe this idea is particularly relevant to today’s world with the mass growth of technology and fast pace society, it seems humans are becoming ever more dependent on mnemotechnical equipment as a storage tool.
I believe that the extended mind thesis can be viewed as an extension of mnemotechnical equipment as it acknowledges how external objects play an important role in aiding our cognitive process (Murphie 2013, p.21). The mind and environment work as a “coupled experience” (Wikipedia 2013) in which the mind uses certain external elements as a memory tool, which can be regarded as an extension of the mind (David Chalmers, The Extended Mind Revisited 2009). For example, when you park in a car park you take note of the colour, symbol, a certain object and/or number on that level in order to remember where you parked. Without fail every time I go shopping with mum the words: “listen carefully to what I’m about to say…” come pouring out, this comment signals that I should pay close attention to what follows – “we are parked on P5 yellow, remember that!” , and without further ado I snap a photo of the signage (e.g. P5 yellow) with my Iphone. Not only is this an example of laziness, mnemotechnology and external memory but it also demonstrates metacommunication, that is communication about communication (Classle 2011). My mum communicated (through her warning) how her next point of communication (P5 Yellow) was going to be important.
This is where I find the practice of aiding the memory or mnemotechnics fascinating (Stiegler n.d.), because mnemotechnical equipment in some instances can be used to teach the mind and then eventually be disregarded. For example, children’s learning cards (mnemotechnical tool) associate text with image to teach children the alphabet, words and the ability to distinguish and associate these words with what a cat, dog or tree is etc. What they learn gets stored in their internal archive and eventually, without an external aid (learning card) they can recall what the word “cat” is associated to (image of furry animal) or how to spell it and so forth. Thus, mnemotechnical equipment at times helps us to learn and remember to such an extent that eventually we can rely on our “natural memory” for recall and not external objects.
An example of how mnemotechnical equipment such as children’s learning cards work as memory tools and can teach children to correctly identify things. Double click to see larger version. Copyright Marcella Gallace 2013
Hence, I don’t believe that memory is totally reliant on the outside world, if so it doesn’t explain how we know how to speak, or how we remember the alphabet, key dates and so on – this is something naturally and internally stored in our mind. Thus, I accept that memory can be internally recalled as well as triggered by external elements and technologies. I find the topics of memory, perception and metacommunication extremely interesting, prior to these readings and the lecture I hadn’t thought of memory in this light – I now see how memory is attached to technology, and the exterior world, aspects of research I will defiantly consider when looking at communication for the final research project.
Classle 2011, accessed 26 March 2013, <https://www.classle.net/content-page/metacommunication-affects-meaning# >.
Collins, N 2012, ‘Smells can trigger emotional memories, study finds’, The Telegraph UK, 28 January, accessed 25 March 2013, <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/science-news/9042019/Smells-can-trigger-emotional-memories-study-finds.html>.
David Chalmers, The Extended Mind Revisited, 2009, Hong Kong, online video, accessed 26 March 2013, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8S149IVHhmc>.
Gallace, M 2013, pen drawing and photoshop.
Murphie, A 2013, “Arts3091, Advanced Media Issues: New Media, Cultural and Social Change”, Study Kit, University of NSW, pp.20-24.
Stiegler, B 2006, Cinema as mnemotechnics: Bernard Stiegler and the industrialisation of memory, e-book, accessed 26 March 2013, <http://www.academia.edu/1115989/Cinema_as_mnemotechnics_Bernard_Stiegler_and_the_industrialisation_of_memory>.
Stiegler, B n.d, Anamnesis and Hypomnesis: Plato as the first thinker of the proletarianisation, arsindustralis, accessed 26 March 2013, <http://arsindustrialis.org/anamnesis-and-hypomnesis>.
Wikipedia 2013, Extended Mind, accessed 26 March 2013, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extended_Mind>.