Global Mnemotechnics as Extensions of the Mind

I’m going to start this discussion with the recount of my trip to Japan two years ago.

My Story

Well, basically, I went to Osaka and Kyoto with two of my college friends. And our site-seeing was proudly led by our cameras the whole time. To recollect and, perhaps in the attempt to make more sense of what we actually did during the entire trip, was snap, SNAP, S-N-A-P! Taking pictures out of the fear that we might forget. This sounds a little pathetic right now as I’m writing this. My desperation, or as Andrew Murphie may call it, ‘quiet trauma‘ (2005), in this moment as well as in those historical moments when we were temporally/spatially IN Japan, reverberates and intensifies as I begin to feel the strength of this slippage of differential thinking processes: one that recognises the differential intensity between remembering what I was perceiving/feeling/thinking at that time (while in Japan) and what I am realising in the current frame of self-exploration. I would like to retrace that series of stuck-to-the-screen behaviours that I myself, and my friends were performing while we thought we were enjoying our travel experiences there.

Thanks to my friend who every now and then has taken some paparazzi shots of me mastering my photographic skills that we get to witness, and I get to learn about, my feverish attachment to my Sony NEX5. As pessimistic as it sounds, all I could remember the first things I did with my photos was to import them into my Macbook Pro before any disastrous thing happens to my memory card or camera (I’m paranoid and I know it, but may God forbid those imagined accidents from happening), and to share them on Facebook. Hah! Sounds like some pretty ordinary acts these days but if we think about it more seriously we know that something’s wrong. Terribly wrong.

Global Mnemotechnics as Extended Minds in Virtual Space and Real Time

Because all I can remember is how much effort I put into making sure things were framed on the screen the way I desired them to be. And yet, NOT how great the cultural experiences were or how much fun we had together… To think about such social trivialities in parallel to Neil Postman, I would agree that probably that in the cultural dimension:

what is happening is the residue of an exhausted capitalism; or on the contrary, that it is the tasteless fruit of the maturing of capitalism; or that it is the neurotic aftermath of the Ages of Freud; or the retribution of our allowing God to perish; or that it all comes from the old stand-bys, greed and ambition. (1985, p. 6)

The intense virtuality in the ways in which experiences are actually captured in order to feed a tertiary retention of an event is just mind-blowing! Exactly what Bernard Stiegler (2003) has described as

a digitalisation of territories and living space relying on nomadic objects and their infrastructures, global tracking systems, receiving devices, geo-referential databases, geographical information systems (GIS), satellites and navigation systems, et., through which a process of re-territorialisation within and through networks has begun, and which hitherto unknown perspectives for the ‘information society’ as far as the redistribution of geopolitical stakes is concerned. (ibid)

P.S. My “paparazzi” friend was tagging the location of the three of us on Facebook each time we went somewhere new and different. This taps into the hyper-potentiality of mnemotechnics as extensions of the mind.

Our actual states of being are now metamorphosing into electronic data that transcend the physical limits of spatiality. In tandem with a redefined temporality, the velocity with which we travel through ‘data landscapes’ is instantaneous and may one day be so at light speed (however you might imagine the future). (ibid) To me, this is almost an ontological change that is already marked as a quite overwhelming milestone in the history/genealogy of humankind.

The interweaving functionality of all the aforementioned modern technics, then, unquestionably has a global scale. And this structure of the globe is becoming denser and denser, heavier and heavier, as we find our ways to understanding the extent to which we are over-developing over ourselves. This networked relay is nearly inescapable today for anyone of us cannot resist being located, watched or heard. My perspective here is probably framed by this wise aphoria of James Branch Cabell’s:

The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true. (1926)

Mental Ecology as a Map of Cognitivism

Indeed, as we act out of fear, anxiety or agony we panic. Usually we don’t stay stable and do nothing about this negative feelings we generate as we try to grasp how much our existence weigh in an ontological sense. We seek solution from agents to (re-)structure the world. We ache for a lack of control and therefore we clench control as hard as we could. We are scared to lose ourselves. On a psychological level, we refer to ‘modern cognitive agents’ (Murphie 2005), which are

agents who deploy, develop and arguably construct their cognitive faculties, even as they theorise their existence. (ibid)

A keyword here is cognitivism. It is defined as “a model of a cognition that is logical, locatable and communicable, of cognition that is made of representations and is representable” (ibid). The way I make sense of it comes down to the common thread – transparency – as the medium of the functional potentiality of cognitivism. The visibility of modern cognitive agents constitute and, maybe simultaneously instil a kind of pathetic fallacy, as we project/attach ourselves affectively to virtual/augmented realities, which are more or less in conflict with, or enveloped in the disjuncture of, the actual reality.

References

Cabell, J.B., 1926 The Silver Stallion: A Comedy of Redemption

Murphie, Andrew (2005) ‘The Mutation of “Cognition” and the Fracturing of Modernity: cognitive technics, extended mind and cultural crisis’, Scan 2(2), September, <http://scan.net.au/scan/journal/display.php?journal_id=58>

Postman, N. (1985), Amusing Ourselves to DeathPublic Discourse in the Age of Show Business, Penguin Group, New York

Stiegler, Bernard (2003) ‘Our Ailing Educational Institutions’, Culture Machine, 5, <http://www.culturemachine.net/index.php/cm/article/viewArticle/258/243>

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