Virtual Memory paper

I’m happy to announce that a paper of mine was published, in The New School Psychology Bulletin, as part of a special issue on memory studies:

Abstract

The following paper will explore the nature of memory in the digital age, proposing the blog as a model for a memory system. It will examine the blog’s position as both a medium and a social practice. Both are essential – without the medium, without the website itself, the blog’s community has no sense of place. Without conversational social relations, there is no basis for community. There is, in fact, an orality to blogging, an orality that recalls the manner in which non-literate cultures rely on speech for their existence. It is a form of speech, though, that is not ephemeral, but permanent and instantly retrievable, and, in this manner, the blog provides a space to create a collective memory, without which the blogger does not exist. This presents a new form of subjectivity, one rooted in bits and bytes, defined by a database, made accessible by a search engine. The blog becomes a technological prosthetic for its users: cyborg memory.

One idea in this paper I really like is the use of Walter Ong’s work on orality. While his use of “secondary orality” is somewhat now in fashion, I think the more important concept here is the juxtaposition of oral cultures, where writing is non-existent, with today’s digital age, where nearly every bit of communication is inscribed, and made permanent (or nearly so). For me, the “community blog” is the perfect model of communication today, both a media form and a social practice, permanent and retrievable.

As Ong wrote, “you know what you can recall,” and as everything we say and write online becomes part of the Internet’s vast machine, what we can recall becomes an infinitely large database with which we will need to contend.

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