Monday, June 23, 2014

Constructing Memory

Much has been written about how Smart phones, apps, and social media have changed the way that we communicate with one another, and for the past five years, I have been having conversations with Gen Y students in the classroom about these changes.  One of the experiments that we do is a social media blackout where the students are asked to abstain from all social media for five days, and I tell them that I will go along for the ride.  I give them an assignment that already breaks the rules: I ask that they blog about their social media fast.  What continues to be of interest to me is that students rarely realize how much of their day is spent in front of a screen.  They don't realize that they've been passing a friend to a class every day for the past few weeks.  That they really don't like when someone pulls out a Smart phone during lunch and begins to text.  That they've missed the fact that flowers are blooming on campus.  And many of them continue the fast to see what life has to offer away from technology.  One student recently wrote:

These are just some of their observations over the years.

So, yes, there is an addiction, but it is often an unconscious one.  There are debates about what we are "getting" from this new form of communication.  I myself am guilty of these behaviors (as much as I hate to admit it).  What's the first thing I did when I woke up today?  Got coffee?  Ate breakfast?  Pet the cat?  No...I checked Facebook.  For 45 minutes.

We're seeing YouTube videos that tell us to "Look Up..."

...or realistic moments about the day "I Forgot My Phone..."  (posted on my birthday interestingly enough)...

We're even seeing classic poetry being used in Apple commercials (albeit Robin Williams reading of a classic Tennyson work):

And millions of people view these.  And people go to other forms of social media to discuss, like, say he/she will take more time out of his/her day to abstain.  And how long did you last?  A day?  Two?

I'm right there with you.


This morning I shot the picture (yes, with my iPad) at the top of this entry.  Why these items?

1. Technology
2. Writing
3. Memory (This card is to celebrate our recent wedding, yes...but the blue Mustang convertible reminded my dad's army buddy and his wife of my dad's looks identical to his actually.  And since dad has long since passed, they wanted to remind me that he would still be there on my wedding day.)

Effects of communication aside, I've been thinking about the relationship between technology/writing/memory.  I'm uncertain where this will take me, but the outcome will be a collaborative creative work.

There's something there that I'm trying to uncover...but I'm not sure what...or why.  When I try to decide how to approach this project, I keep seeing images of my grandmother's kitchen, the rocker in the corner, my father's mustang in the garage, my aunt holding a cup of coffee at the kitchen bar talking to me about life past 2AM...and I wonder...what would be different about those childhood memories, of people who are no longer here, had a Smart phone been next to me?

Making memory tangible...I have to end with Paul Auster:

"The pen will never be able to move fast enough to write down every word discovered in the space of memory.  Some things have been lost forever, other things will perhaps be remembered again, and still other things have been lost and found and lost again."

Well, my cat is pacing at my feet rubbing.  Guess I should go feed her.  Guess it's time to get back to the real world.

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