Forget you ever saw this post

A new book across my desk:

Marc Aug?
Translated by Marjolijn de Jager
Foreword by James E. Young
University of Minnesota Press | 136 pages | 2004
ISBN 0-8166-3566-8 | hardcover | $56.95
ISBN 0-8166-3567-6 | paperback | $18.95

?Remembering or forgetting is doing gardener?s work, selecting, pruning. Memories are like plants: there are those that need to be quickly eliminated in order to help the others burgeon, transform, flower.?

For the health of the individual and the society, oblivion is as necessary as memory. One must know how to forget, Marc Aug? suggests, not just to live fully in the present but also to comprehend the past. Oblivion moves with authority among a variety of sources to illustrate the interplay of memory and forgetting in the stories told across cultures and times.

For more information, visit the book’s webpage

Which reminded my of Anne’s post late last year about memory and the idea of a forgetting machine. In contemporary culture (particularly cultures of computing) there is a significant amount of anxiety around technologies and memory – the anxiety mainly concerns the reliability of archiving systems – will all our data be kept safe forever? As if memory equalled the active keeping of everything, and forgetting merely a lapse in that process. But we know that information and cognition are not the same thing, and archiving information is not the same thing as remembering experiences, feelings, or even “facts”. Further, it goes both ways – remembering is a rich and complex process, requiring not only binary editing (where keeping=active=1 / forgetting=not-keeping=0) but complex, affective sorting and analysis, and, if you think about it, active and artful forgetting as well as (or as part of?) remembering.

And in case we need more convincing, let me steal from Anne and whip out the Nietsche:

Forgetting is not simply a kind of inertia, as superficial minds tend to believe, but rather the active faculty to … provide some silence, a ‘clean slate’ for the unconscious, to make place for the new… those are the uses for what I have called an active forgetting…

[note: ironically, my proxy server dropped out to reconfigure QUT access just as I was finishing my first draft of this post – because I’d forgotten half of what I wrote half asleep this morning, this draft is different, but is it better?]

So let me leave you with a question or two:

  1. What would active, creative forgetting look like, or feel like?
  2. Is it a cognitive impossibility?
  3. What with all the obsessive keeping-of-everything, what should the network of networks actively forget, and what would be the effects of an Internet that more closely relates to human and cultural memory, as opposed to machine memory?
  4. And finally, a much more fun question: what would you as individuals, if acting out of your own long-term best interests (i.e. not just the avoidance of pain) choose to actively forget?

7 thoughts to “Forget you ever saw this post”

  1. Yo,

    I am meant to be writing a paper on his Non-Places book atm. It is a deceptively complex book that develops in simple way from some simple premises. I wonder is this number is similar in style?

  2. To roundly avoid your interesting questions, I’ll instead mention that I’m fascinated by memories of memories.. remembering remembering, which is how I know a memory is quote real unquote (insight: I’ve had some fairly serious long-term memory problems).

    Active forgetting would probably look like fascism, I think. The forgetting of anything actively or creatively is a violent act, a precursor and precondition of prioritising according to use.

    Then again, I haven’t read Auge, and it sounds like everyday I don’t is a wasted day!

  3. well, I haven’t read it, it just floated through my “virtual” desk in my (alleged) capacity as a reviews editor…but still, I think there’s something to the more benign gardening metaphor. I’m not sure whay it’s necessarily “fascism”- Is it the Nietsche reference that’s provoking that particular characterisation?

  4. I guess its reading books like Haruki Murakami’s “Hard-Boiled Wonderland At The End of the World”, which tells the fable of a professional number-processor who forgets as a result of his last assignment. It really was just a characterisation to say I’m as uncomfortable with selective memory as I am with excessive memory.

  5. Pingback: Preoccupations

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