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Human memory is prone to error and distortion. It has been proposed that memory's misdeeds can be classified into seven categories or ‘sins’. This article discusses the impact of media and technology on four memory sins: transience (forgetting over time), absent-mindedness (lapses in attention that produce forgetting), misattribution (attributing a memory to the wrong source), and suggestibility (implanted memories). Growing concerns have been expressed about the negative impact of media and technology on memory. With respect to transience, I review research regarding the impact of the Internet (ie, Google), GPS, and photographs. Studies have documented impaired memory following specific tasks on which people rely on media/technology (eg, poor memory for a route after using GPS), but have revealed little evidence for broader impairments (eg, generally impaired memory in GPS users), and have also documented some mnemonic benefits (eg, reviewing photos of past experiences). For absent-mindedness, there is strong evidence that media multitasking is associated with poor memory for a target task (eg, a lecture) because of attentional lapses, suggesting evidence that chronic media multitasking could be associated with broader memory problems, and emerging evidence that technology can help to reduce certain kinds of absent-minded errors. Regarding misattribution and suggestibility, there is clear evidence that manipulated or misleading photos are associated with false memories for personal events and fake news, but no evidence of broader effects on susceptibility to memory distortion. Further study of the impact of media and technology on the memory sins is a fruitful pursuit for interdisciplinary studies.
Both gender and narrative are foundational to the ways in which humans engage in meaning-making. Arguing from evolutionary, psychological and feminist theoretical perspectives, we posit that narratives and gender are culturally mediated mutually constituted meaning-making systems: Narratives are defined through gender and gender is defined through narrative. To contextualise this argument, we define ‘narrative’ and ‘gender’ and review the extant literature on how gender is expressed in culturally mediated master narratives and how narratives are performed differently by women and men. Our core argument is that the very act of narrating is a gendered activity that constructs, represents and narrates gender as a primary category of human existence, and these fundamentally gendered ways of narrating then construct, define and reify gendered ways of being in the world.
People often use personal stories to support and defend their views. But can a personal story be evidence? A story tells us that a certain event can happen and has already happened to someone, but it may not always help us understand what caused the event or predict how likely that event is to happen again in the future. Moreover, people confabulate. That is, when they tell stories about their past, they are likely to distort reality in some way. When people who lack access to what motivated past behaviour are asked why they made a choice, they tend to offer plausible considerations in support of that choice, even if those considerations could not have played a motivating role in bringing about their behaviour. When people experience impairments in autobiographical memory, they tend to fill the gaps in their own story by reconstructing significant events to match their interests, values, and conception of themselves. This means that people often offer a curated version of the events they describe. In this paper, we argue that the pervasiveness of confabulation does not rule out that personal stories can be used as evidence but invites us to reflect carefully about what they are evidence of. And this is especially important in the context of digital storytelling, because stories shared on online platforms can exert even greater influence on what people think and do.
I propose a triangular theory of self to characterise the sense of selfhood in the era of social media. According to the theory, the self in the social media era comprises the represented self that is located in the private mind of the person, the registered self that is presented on social media platforms, and the inferred self that is constructed by the virtual audience. The three components of the self interact in dynamic ways to constitute a sense of selfhood and identity specific to the social media era. Autobiographical memory plays a critical role in the development and maintenance of these components. The triangular theory of self introduces new ways to understand and study memory and self in a digitally mediated world.
Democracy is in retreat around the globe. Many commentators have blamed the Internet for this development, whereas others have celebrated the Internet as a tool for liberation, with each opinion being buttressed by supporting evidence. We try to resolve this paradox by reviewing some of the pressure points that arise between human cognition and the online information architecture, and their fallout for the well-being of democracy. We focus on the role of the attention economy, which has monetised dwell time on platforms, and the role of algorithms that satisfy users’ presumed preferences. We further note the inherent asymmetry in power between platforms and users that arises from these pressure points, and we conclude by sketching out the principles of a new Internet with democratic credentials.
This article looks to journalism in order to understand the relationship between memory, mind and media more fully. Using the urgency that characterises the current news environment as a reflection of broader information flows, the article considers journalism's embrace of complex time to address the demands of speed. It suggests that the temporal practices adopted by both individual journalists and the journalistic community offer a model for institutions wrestling with the ontological uncertainty generated by current times, providing mechanisms to navigate and even offset the unending demands of simultaneity, immediacy and instantaneity.
In this paper, we consider changes to memorial practices for mental health service users during the asylum period of the mid-nineteenth up to the end of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century. The closing of large asylums in the UK has been largely welcomed by professionals and service-users alike, but their closure has led to a decrease in continuous and consistent care for those with enduring mental health challenges. Temporary and time-limited mental health services, largely dedicated to crisis management and risk reduction have failed to enable memory practices outside the therapy room. This is an unusual case of privatised memories being favoured over collective memorial activity. We argue that the collectivisation of service user memories, especially in institutions containing large numbers of long-stay patients, would benefit both staff and patients. The benefit would be in the development of awareness of how service users make sense of their past in relation to their present stay in hospital, how they might connect with others in similar positions and how they may connect with the world and others upon future release. This seems to us central to a project of recovery and yet is rarely practised in any mental health institution in the UK, despite being central to other forms of care provision, such as elderly and children's care services. We offer some suggestions on how collective models of memory in mental health might assist in this project of recovery and create greater visibility between past, present and future imaginings.
Collective memories are memories shared by a group that influence their social identity. The goal of this paper is to focus on two major limitations in current studies on collective memory and show how the hourglass metaphor can overcome those limitations. The first limitation concerns the partial nature of studies devoted to the analysis of collective memory. Studies tend to focus either on the choice of the past (how memory agents mobilise the past) or the weight of the past (how the past affects the individual or the group). The second limitation relates to the temporal dimension of research conducted so far. Most studies only assess memory over a single generation, yet it can have long-term effects. In this paper, we suggest considering memory work as an hourglass, with the collective and the individual at opposite ends and the sand of memories passing from one to the other, filtered through family values and representations. The hourglass metaphor thus provides a helpful tool to explain the formation of collective memories over time and the interactions between the macro, meso, and micro levels. We approach the study of collective memory from an interdisciplinary perspective, mainly involving psychology, political science, and history. We conclude by suggesting three challenges that future studies of memory will need to address: (1) the need to combine multiple approaches; (2) the need to consider the role of generations; and (3) the need to bridge discussion across disciplines.
Rewilding memory provides the basis for a new theoretical and practical agenda to bring greater neurological human diversity and ecological diversity into research and teaching on memory, mind and media. The article develops the concept of ‘more-than-human-memory’ to refer to the co-construction of memories between diverse humans and the environment. The article draws on research that examined a transmedia corpus of 40 neurodivergent memory works (life writing, memoirs, autobiographical art, blogs and videos). It found that memory works by autistic people consistently remember the self in terms of the co-composition of human memories through and with the media and matter of environmental memories. The article explores the ways in which some autistic people's memory works decentre human memories through deep ecological memory, conversations with vibrant objects and memories of animating energies. The research suggests that such memories ‘rewild’ or eco-neuroqueer the human-centred and normatively biased assumptions of memory, mind and media that underpin psychology, philosophy of mind, media and memory studies. It contributes a new angle to research that addresses the dialogical relationship between what Barnier and Hoskins (2018) have termed ‘memory in the mind’ and ‘memory in the wild’. It also goes beyond extended mind theory that understands human memory as enhanced and extended through non-biological tools and suggests the significance to memory of the more-than-human living world. Importantly, it highlights connections between autistic more-than-human-memories and the conceptualisation and practices associated with the more-than-human in research shaped by eco-psychology, Indigenous Studies and Environmental Humanities.
When looking for a crime suspect, the police may ask an eyewitness to construct a visual likeness (‘facial composite’) of the perpetrator, to be distributed to the public via newspaper articles, television programmes, or social media. The dissemination of facial composites can have a major impact on police investigations. It often results in a deluge of tips and could potentially influence the memory of other eyewitnesses in the case. In this article, we review research on how to interview eyewitnesses for the optimal construction of facial composites from memory. We discuss types of composite systems and their effectiveness, including the ‘gold standard’ of measuring effectiveness. We compare the question posed to the public when a facial composite is disseminated to face-matching tasks faced by immigration officials and store clerks, but then with the added difficulty of the image being a composite of unknown resemblance to the target. We also discuss the potential danger of composites contaminating other eyewitnesses’ memory, highlighting the lessons learnt from research on unconscious transference. We pose several challenges for future researchers and practitioners. We conclude that evidence-based guidance is lacking to inform the police on whether and how to use facial composites in their investigations.
Studies that locate memory entirely within the head may pay less attention to the properties, practices or cultures of the media with which people remember than studies of ‘memory in the wild’, where memory is seen to extend beyond the individual, into the distributed activities of people and material things. While memory in the head is, apparently, individual and susceptible to universal effects, memory in the wild is emergent and relational. Studies of memory in the wild, therefore, produce results that are harder to pin down but may form a stronger basis for interpreting the importance of context. It is an important, interdisciplinary challenge to reconcile evidence from studies based on these different conceptions, so that we can better understand how people remember and forget, individually and collectively, and the relationship between context, environment, and memory. I argue that wherever memory is located or studied, all remembering can be framed as in the wild, and that doing so supports ecological validity, conceptual precision, reflexivity, and realistic application of conclusions beyond the research context. A key part of my argument is that the relationship between media, technology, and memory is situated, highly complex, and not easily generalisable. Remembering in the wild supports the conceptual precision needed to understand the subtle and entangled implications of technological change in relation to memory.
Social media provides an easy and ubiquitous means by which individuals can curate and share their personal experiences while also interacting with their friends, family, and the world at large. One means by which individuals can craft their personal past via social media is through their personal photographs. However, psychologists are only beginning to appreciate the mnemonic consequences associated with sharing personal photographs on social media. The aim of this manuscript is to distil the relevant, psychological research examining the mnemonic consequences associated with photography and sharing personal photographs on social media. To this end, we discuss how a psychological approach to memory has evolved from an individualist perspective to one that is beginning to appreciate the importance of a memory ecology. We then turn to photographs as an important component of one's memory ecology and how the act of photography and sharing photos on social media may have important consequences for how individuals remember their personal past. We then end with a discussion surrounding pertinent avenues for future research. We advocate that, moving forward, psychologists should better appreciate (1) the collective nature of social media, (2) an individual's memory ecology, and (3) the mnemonic consequences associated with social media silence. In addressing these issues, we believe that psychologists and memory researchers, more generally, will gain a fuller understanding of how, and in what way, personal photographs, and the act of sharing them via social media may shape the way individuals remember their personal past.
Technology has transformed how people interact with one another. According to two recent Pew Research Center surveys (2021a; 2021b), 97 per cent of United States adults have a cell phone, 85 per cent have a smartphone, 93 per cent use the Internet, and 77 per cent have broadband Internet access at home. The Internet has opened countless doors by providing unprecedented access to information and connecting people. While we know from laboratory research that context and collaboration can influence memory, little is known about how virtual collaboration affects memory and whether in-person studies generalise to virtual contexts. In this article, we discuss the challenges, value, and broader relevance of extending laboratory-based memory research to online platforms. In doing so, we report a virtual collaborative memory paradigm, where we examine individual and social remembering in a fully online, chat-based setting, and present data from two completely virtual experiments. In Experiment 1, online participants studied a word list and, in a chatroom, recalled the words either alone (as controls) or with two other participants. Surprisingly, collaborative inhibition – the robust finding of lower recall in collaborative groups than controls – disappeared. This outcome occurred because participants who worked alone recalled less than what we see in in-person studies. In Experiment 2, where instructions were modified and an experimenter was present, individual performance improved, resulting in collaborative inhibition. We reflect on the contextualised nature of this effect in online settings, for both collaborative and individual remembering, and on the implications for the study of memory in the digital age.
Over the past decades, the field of memory studies has produced a wealth of research on explicit (conscious, commemorative, official) collective memory. But beyond this realm of the visible, there is a largely hidden world of ‘implicit collective memory’. Elements of this invisible world include narrative schemata, stereotypes, patterns of framing, or world models, which are usually not explicitly known or addressed, but get passed on from generation to generation – in order to shape perception and action in new situations. Implicit collective memory is pervasive and powerful. But it is difficult to trace. It is therefore time to join forces for its systematic study: Drawing on approaches from psychology, sociology, communication studies, anthropology, media culture studies, literary studies, and mnemohistory, this article proposes some building blocks for a future transdisciplinary field of research on implicit collective memory.
Over the past two decades, society has seen incredible advances in digital technology, resulting in the wide availability of cheap and easy-to-use software for creating highly sophisticated fake visual content. This democratisation of creating such content, paired with the ease of sharing it via social media, means that ill-intended fake images and videos pose a significant threat to society. To minimise this threat, it is necessary to be able to distinguish between real and fake content; to date, however, human perceptual research indicates that people have an extremely limited ability to do so. Generally, computational techniques fair better in these tasks, yet remain imperfect. What's more, this challenge is best considered as an arms race – as scientists improve detection techniques, fraudsters find novel ways to deceive. We believe that it is crucial to continue to raise awareness of the visual forgeries afforded by new technology and to examine both human and computational ability to sort the real from the fake. In this article, we outline three considerations for how society deals with future technological developments that aim to help secure the benefits of that technology while minimising its possible threats. We hope these considerations will encourage interdisciplinary discussion and collaboration that ultimately goes some way to limit the proliferation of harmful content and help to restore trust online.
Bringing together artistic and scientific modes of inquiry, Witness statements and the technologies of memory examines the impact that digital technologies have on the substance of truth and historical facts. Hosted as part of Heba Y. Amin and Anthony Downey's online symposium, which was held in conjunction with Amin's exhibition When I see the future, I close my eyes, Chapter I (curated by Downey for the Mosaic Rooms in 2020), the panel discussed the legacies of colonial power and command, regimes of memory, and the ex post facto constitution of evidence from online archives. Drawing upon the diverse backgrounds and experiences of the panellists, which included Helene Kazan (Oxford Brookes University), Naeem Mohaiemen (Columbia University), and Susan Schuppli (Goldsmiths, University of London), Heba Y. Amin (Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart), and Anthony Downey (Birmingham City University), Witness statements and the technologies of memory sought to more fully understand the impact of digital archives on historical records and evidence-gathering. Against the backdrop of indiscriminate expurgations of online material, we observe how the evidentiary potential of digital archives is compromised by the commercial imperatives of social media networks, censorship, and state surveillance. Among the many questions that arise here, the extent to which personal recollections are often presented as virtual artefacts of memory – a technology of recall or a mnemo-technics in its own right – remains central to the debate about the future of memory in our post-digital age.
This article sets out some of the analytical moves that are necessary to developing a distinctive area of research called postcolonial memory studies. A key barrier to synthesising insights from postcolonial and memory studies has been a reductive approach to analogue and digital technologies which operate as vehicles for memory. Three analytical moves are needed to decentre, or at the very least de-naturalise the technological narratives and ecologies of Europe and the US. Media memory studies needs to draw more effectively on postcolonial studies to position mediated memory as inextricably connected to the legacies of colonialism and empire; develop a much broader account of media infrastructures emerging from what is increasingly characterised as ‘global media studies’; make an empirical and analytical shift away from the primacy of digital communications technologies and to explore technologies, not just as artefacts but as knowledge generating cultural practices. The combined value of these three shifts in approaches to media and communications technologies in memory studies research has considerable potential for developing postcolonial media memory studies research which offers a thorough and empirically grounded analysis of the complex ways in which the legacies of colonialism shape and structure the ways in which practices and performances of remembering are mediated in contemporary social life. This shift towards postcolonial memory studies can be seen as part of the wider project of what Anna (Amza) Reading has in this volume called ‘rewilding memory’ by rethinking ‘the underlying ecologies of knowledge within studies of memory’.
We describe three areas of inquiry that we foresee as being important in future studies of collective memory, mind, and media. The first is the power of narratives, usually provided by collectives, which can be explicit and conscious or implicit and unconscious. A second important theme during this period of populism and nationalism is the study of the self-centredness (or egocentricity) of groups, especially nations believing their past is special. Such egocentricity can feed conflict among nations as well as groups within nations. The third important direction for research is future thinking, or studies of how people anticipate events they expect to unroll in their future and whether these events are mostly positive or negative. A puzzle of future thinking relative to collective memory is why people readily argue about and even fight over events from the past, but find it much more difficult to mobilise groups about life-threatening future events such as global warming or nuclear war. We look forward to studies in these crucial topics and others as they appear in Memory, Mind & Media.