Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Persistent Memories

Read an excellent article on the art of forgetting in the digital age and learnt the term data ecology :

As humans we have the capacity to remember – and to forget. For millennia remembering was hard, and forgetting easy. By default, we would forget. Digital technology has inverted this. Today, with affordable storage, effortless retrieval and global access remembering has become the default, for us individually and for society as a whole.

The persistence of memory could be a curse for humans. In being able to use the internet as storage for memories that the brain can no longer contain or catalog effectively, we now have a way to persist all memories and suffer its consequences.

Jyoti, the uber-geek I met on my vacation last weekend has every SMS, email and chat transcript from a ten year old relationship archived. If there was way that phone conversations could be converted to text easily I would bet she would do that. In talking about heartbreak, she frequently referred to snippets from chats and SMS messages and how his behavior ranged from inconsistent to inconsiderate.

As I listened to her, I wished she did not have such easy access to so much historical data -it made forgetting so much harder. Even without asking her I knew she would never delete the relationship detritus - it is much too hard to wipe off ten years from one's consciousness; it is like suffering amnesia.

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