On the fallibility of memory.
“Even if the underlying mechanism of a false memory is exposed, as I was able to do, with my brother’s help, in the incendiary bomb incident (or as Loftus would do when she confessed to her subjects that their memories were implanted), this may not alter the sense of actual lived experience or reality that such memories have. Nor, for that matter, may the obvious contradictions or absurdity of certain memories alter the sense of conviction or belief. For the most part the people who claim to be abducted by aliens are not lying when they speak of how they were taken into alien spaceships, any more than they are conscious of having invented a story—some truly believe that this is what happened.”
“Memory is dialogic and arises not only from direct experience but from the intercourse of many minds.”
this story is going to come off as creepy…
…but I can’t pass up an opportunity to document a bizarre intersection of technology and memory.
I wasn’t really too interested in Vine, Twitter’s new mini-video sharing app, until yesterday. An aquaintance posted a Vine video of his cat on Twitter that honest to god took my breath away. This person has posted pictures of his cat on Twitter before and I’ve been surprised at how much his cat looks like my cat Pippin did when he was alive.
It’s made me sad and maybe just a tiny bit jealous to see a cat that looks like Pippin, but isn’t. It’s also made me sort of happy. Like for a minute I can almost see the beloved cat I grew up chasing around the house for just a second of his rare, dignified attention.
The Vine video took that sensation to a whole new level. In it, the cat is sitting in profile looking out a sunny window. Slowly, it closes and opens its eyes, scrunches up its nose, and shakes its head and white-flecked gray fur. The striations along its nose and head glint in the sunlight.
My first reaction was, “Whoa, he even blinks like Pippin.”
The facial expression is so close to identical it feels like I’m looking at my cat, even though I know he’s not alive. This is the creepiest instance of voyeurism I think I’ve ever experienced on the internet, but I can’t stop looking at the Vine video because every time I do I feel like I have my cat back. Just for a second, I almost believe that moment when I walked into my house, after speeding and crying through a four hour drive home from college, and saw my cat lying dead in my mom’s arms never happened. For just a second, I think I can reach out and pet the luxuriously smooth patch of fur at the top of his head.
I know I shouldn’t be repeatedly watching a six second video of some other dude’s cat, although it makes me feel better that my mom had the same reaction when I sent her the link (yes, I sent my mom the link). I also know a lot of people think pets are only pets and that makes this whole reflection doubly insane, but I also bet a lot of people get it.
In a way that a picture cannot, Vine is letting me see this other person’s cat and imagine it’s the one I miss. It’s like being in a dream or having one of those moments where I swear I can hear him meow for some tuna, but really I’m just on Twitter.
Perhaps it’s because the video is so short. A few seconds longer and there’d be no mistaking my cat for this one. His personality was too big, too distinct.
It’s time to stop rewatching this Vine video of another cat. After all, it’s really freaking weird and it quite obviously isn’t my Pippin. But the fact that for a moment I can let myself believe it is, well, I guess that’s sort of special.
“Libraries constitute archaeologies of knowledge, reflecting not only cultural memory, but also the changing import of information, learning and literary expression in different times and places.”
Recovering mementos through Facebook after Sandy
Somehow, the fact that this exists makes me feel better about a lot of things.
US National Archives blocks searches containing ‘WikiLeaks’
November 4, 2012
The public search engine for the US National Archives appears to be blocked for the term “WikiLeaks”. The whistleblower website has already lashed out at the move, saying the Archives has turned into “Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.”
An error message pops up every time a search is performed with the word “WikiLeaks”.
It’s not entirely clear when the US National Archives decided to block these searches.
However, WikiLeaks’ has already called the whole thing a “farce”.
“The US National Archives has literally turned into Orwell’s Ministry of Truth,”a message on the site’s Twitter account reads, adding“The US state is literally eating its own brain by censoring its own collective memories about WikiLeaks.”
The block is likely to be in line with the “Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act,” a form of internet censorship the US adopted back in 2010.
It did not become law, but it prompted various US government agencies such as the White House Office of Management and Budget and the US Air Force to advise their employees not to read or access classified documents being made available by sites like WikiLeaks.
The Library of Congress went further by blocking access to WikiLeaks content from its server in 2010.
The American Library Association suggested this violated the First Amendment rights of internet users to receive information.
“The Library of Congress’s decision is a violation of the First Amendment and a violation of the American Library Association’s Bill of Rights. Moreover, it is a violation of the professional ethics of librarians to always provide free access to all information,” their statement said.
WikiLeaks exploded on to the global scene back in 2006, since then releasing hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables, including top secret documents from the US Department of Defense, and secret cables from the State Department.
Some of that classified information was seen as damaging the US government’s reputation in a number of incidents.
Recently it was revealed that the US government officially considers WikiLeaks’ and its founder Julian Assange to be enemies of the state.
Declassified US Air Force counter-intelligence documents show that military personnel contacting WikiLeaks could face execution for “communicating with the enemy.”
The fact that WikiLeaks was treated as an enemy of state would have serious implications should Assange be extradited to the US, as he could face military detention.
“The US state is literally eating its own brain by censoring its own collective memories about WikiLeaks.”
If we have a right to information, do we have a right to memory. How much do the semantics matter?
Popular neuroscience: pretty popular right now.
Several hundred years ago there was a lot of talk of understanding brains and souls as disparate entities by men with fabulous moustaches. Today some would argue that any reflection on the “soul” is a reflection on neuroscience. Seriously, shout outs to the central nervous system.
The CNS is the whole body’s circuit board. It powers everything. And not just voluntary and involuntary movement. It’s all sensation, all emotion, all consciousness, seated just behind the eyes, running down the spine
Popular neuroscience is popular for this reason. It lives in neuropsychology and thrives on case studies of sudden memory loss, instantaneous personality changes, and persistent music that does not play for anyone else.
And it’s made relentlessly interesting by the reality that even experts don’t fully understand how the brain works or the phenomena that result from its damage.
So popular neuroscience is pretty popular right now, as reflected in two entries in OUP’s blog this week. There’s this one on the frontal lobe - a region of the brain that, when damaged, can make you “not yourself.” It also has a great 19th Century anecdote which, as we can all admit, is the best sort of anecdote.
And this one on Henry Molaison - arguably the most studied case of memory loss in history.
More on the odd relationship between exercise and memory
It seems the benefits of breaking a sweat are mounting, even if this study just suggests that exercising at a particularly time means for your muscles than it does for your intellect.
“After a week, though, things looked different. The men who had exercised just after first learning the motor skill were noticeably better at remembering the task, with their tracing of the red line on the computer more agile and accurate. The men who’d exercised before learning the new skill were not quite as adept now, although they were better than those in the group that hadn’t exercised at all.
What this result suggests, says Marc Roig, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Copenhagen who led the study with his colleague Kasper Skriver, is that physical exercise may help the brain to consolidate and store physical or motor memories…
Want to remember how to ride that bike, in other words? Then ride it as soon as you have managed to stop wobbling. The exercise seems able then to cement the memory of how to ride. Ditto if you’ve just perfected the snap of your tennis serve or the spin on your soccer kick. Go for a run immediately afterward, and your body may later better remember.
Whether that same run will strengthen the creation and storage of more intellectual memories remains to be seen, although Dr. Roig is optimistic. He and his colleagues are working with schoolchildren in Copenhagen to determine whether having the youngsters run about or otherwise exercise immediately after being taught a new concept improves their later test scores in that subject. Early results are promising, and could make the mastering of algebra almost invigorating.”
I also feel as though there is some larger lesson to be gleaned here in application toJersey Shore male “gym, tan, laundry” habit, but right now it’s eluding me…