Giovanni Tiso

Impossile Recollections: The Troubled Imaginary of Mediated Memory

 

A thesis submitted to the Victoria University of Wellington in fulfilment of the requirements

for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in English Literature

 

Victoria University of Wellington, 2006

 

 

Abstract

Acknowledgments

Table of Contents

Bibliography

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Abstract

 

This study is grounded in the belief that memory is one of the key areas of contestation in the current debates about technology and society. Its redefinition following the introduction of new technologies, the latest of which is the digital computer, has generated a landscape of dreams and anxieties that underlies complex attitudes towards which cultural products can or cannot be committed to memory, and who can or cannot have access to them. On the one hand, digitisation and the dissemination of information through networks such as the World Wide Web offer an infrastructure that appears on the verge of being able to make the sum of human knowledge available to all; on the other, the realisation of the strains, both cultural and technological, which are exerted upon this infrastructure gives way to visions of an impending breakdown of our ability to preserve, let alone transfer, this knowledge.

 

These anxious imaginings are charted firstly along the axis that links the extremes of total recall and equally total forgetfulness, with an emphasis on the way in which these two narratives are played out against each other. A further exploration leads from the resonant notion of digitally documented life that informs so many current social practices to the idea that we might one day be able to upload our minds onto computer networks, only to find in that seemingly confident scenario another significant reservoir of anxiety, as well as a prime instance of the binary logic of exclusion that governs the construction and in part also our understanding of digital subjectivity. The figure of the excluded, undocumented person introduces in the last chapter an examination of the perceived threats to the functioning of collective memory and to its ability to fulfil the duty of remembering and passing on the most important events in our history. Finally, the study argues that the imaginary of anxiety just explored should be viewed not solely as a conservative reaction to social and technological change, but also as the means of grounding a more inclusive understanding of a society that is significantly inhabited, but not exhausted, by the digital.

 

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Table of Contents

 

INTRODUCTION           

Alien Marks      

Prosthetic Memories     

Of Cyborgs and Butlers 

 

CHAPTER ONE – PLACES OF AMNESIA          

Into a Digital Dark Age   

Migration          

Dissemination   

Bouvard and Pécuchet in Cyberspace     

Art in the Age of Digital Reproduction      

Metaphors of Memory    

The Soldier of the Mist   

Winter Sleepers

Memento          

Remember Sammy Jankis         

www.otnemem.com       

One Frame a Day         

Noise   

The Amnesia Epidemic  

The Metavirus   

The story, Lost 

 

CHAPTER TWO - THE HORROR OF THE TOTAL LIBRARY       

‘My mind, Sir, is a garbage disposal’      

Can It Be Done?           

The Stickiness of the Database  

Perec and the Confines of the Archive     

Saving the Present        

Documented Lives         

The Glut of Information   

The Library of Babel in Cyberspace         

Information and Metaphor           

 

CHAPTER THREE – THE NEW HOME OF MIND 

Recording Humans        

The Forever Network      

The Anti-Moravec          

Restoring the Body of the Machine         

Undocumented Persons

 

CHAPTER FOUR – THE TRANSMISSION OF MEMORY 

From Being Digital to Being Postmodern 

Memoricide      

Informatics, the Archive and the Holocaust          

The Great Moon Hoax   

Of Recovered, False, Post- and Prosthetic Memories       

A New Breed of Cartesian Demons         

Deconstructing Lilies     

Do You See What I See?           

 

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Acknoweldgments

 

Above all, this work benefited greatly from an ongoing conversation with Brian Opie and Linda Hardy, and it was a conversation I was privileged to be part of.

 

I am grateful for the generosity of the folks at rec.arts.sf.written, it.cultura.fantascienza and it.cultura.libri, whose help with the initial gathering of texts was invaluable. I am similarly indebted to the very many friends who pitched in with suggestions and titles and plot summaries, but since it would be impossible to name them all I am going to limit the shout out to Marco Cultrera, who went above and beyond. Dougal McNeill, before he whisked himself off to Australia, was always there to remind me that I am a pre-post-Marxist, while Giacomo Lichtner was a great source of help and encouragement. Joseph and Lucia put it all in context (‘what do you mean you can’t play now?’). Finally, my thanks go to Victoria University, The JL Stewart Scholarship fund and the Georgetti Scholarship fund for their very generous financial support; and to Justine, for every other kind of support one could possibly wish for.

 

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Bibliography

 

 

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Filmography

 

 

2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982)

Blade Runner The Director’s Cut (Ridley Scott, 1991)

Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985)

Cyhper (Vincenzo Natali, 2002)

Dark City (Alex Proyas, 1998)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)

eXistenZ (David Cronenberg, 1999)

Impostor (Gary Fleder, 2002)

Johnny Mnemonic (Robert Longo, 1995)

Last Year at Marienbad (L’Année Dernière à Marienbad, Alain Resnais, 1961)

Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000)

Minority Report (Steven Spielberg, 2002)

Natural Born Killers (Oliver Stone, 1994)

Paycheck (John Woo, 2003)

Paycheck (John Woo, 2003)

RoboCop (Paul Verhoeven, 1987)

Screamers (Christian Duguay, 1995)

Strange Days (Kathryn Bigelow, 1995)

That Obscure Object of Desire (Cet obscur objet du désir, Luis Buñuel, 1977)

The Birth of a Nation (D.W. Griffith, 1915)

The Final Cut (Omar Naim, 2004)

The Forgotten (Joseph Ruben, 2004)

The Matrix (Larry and Andy Wachowski, 1999)

The Matrix Reloaded (Larry and Andy Wachowski, 2003)

The Passion of the Christ (Mel Gibson, 2004)

Total Recall (Paul Verhoeven, 1990)

Tron (Steven Lisberger, 1984)

Vertigo (Alftred Hitchcock, 1958)

Wintersleepers (Winterschläfer, Tom Tykwer, 1997)

 

Television Shows

 

 

ER, ‘The Peace of Wild Things’ (1999), directed by Richard Thorpe.

Friends, ‘The One Where Phoebe Runs’ (1999), directed by Gary Halvorson.

 

 

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Copyright (c) 2006-2008 Giovanni Tiso