‘Memory’ – lecture notes

Memory could be characterised by revisiting something for the second (or another) time. Technology allows us to escape the present and selectively decide which part of the past we remember.

There are two main aspects of memory, collective and personal.

Collective Memory

Within collective memory is something called cultural memory which is a thought that is put into our minds that could also be referred to a stereotype. We all have an idea of what someone from each culture will be like and an example of this that was given by the lecturer is of a recent holiday that he was coming back from – in which there was a delay on the return flight. He saw two seperate groups of people, one group English and the other Italian. The Italians were extremely angry, cramped up together and screaming at the people working at the airport due to their frustration. The English however formed an orderly queue to wait their turn to voice their opinions with the workers. This, the lecturer felt was a clear example of a difference in culture and perhaps something that encouraged a cultural thought and therefore cultural memory. These memories are created from personal experiences so each individuals cultured memories will be slightly different from another persons because each person has encountered various things to the other.

Collective memory is not the same as history. There is a process called mythologising in which selective memory could appear, history could be dependent on the person depicting the facts, or rather which facts they choose to see. A simple example of this could be the recent student protest in London, one may say see the logic in the protest, while another could see the destruction caused by some of the protesters and document it as a riot.

To understand the process of mythologising you have to look at the details of how the history was constructed, thinking about the culture and influences that might be behind it. History is only accessible to us in narrative form, history requires mediation, representation and a story, these are all part of the things that are encoded history.
Benedict Anderson – Communities (nations) are ‘imagined’ entities. The nation is imagined as limited because even the largest of them encompassing perhaps a billion living human beings has finite, if elastic boundaries beyond which lie other nations. No nation imagines itself coterminous with mankind.

Archive can either be an official recording of footage or it can be a personal archive for example, photographs. It has been a desire since the end of the 19th century to use archive as a metaphor or analogy when memory is discussed. Michel Foucault indicates that history both shapes and occupies the function of memory.
Oeuvre is the idea of a collection of work by an author and is similar in its meaning to characteristic. In the past its meaning was similar to archive – the things that have been and what we have done. An example of the mythologizing process could be that of the creation of a film. It’s a production created by a collaboration of people but is only remembered through an individual (usually the director).
The lecturer gave an example of his own personal archive, showing the class old photos of his Grandfather. He told us about his personal memory of his Grandfather and then explained that one day he received conflicting information from other family members telling different stories about his Grandfather and making him seem like a much different man than the lecturer imagined. This new information that he was told (and shown through photos) corrupted his own personal narrative of his Grandfather and made him change his own personal memory.

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