— Ben Woolsey

Human memory vs. Computer memory

I found the lecture on memory storage from the start of the semester very interesting, and I have been thinking about it quite a lot. Recently I lost about a week’s worth of data from my laptop and it got me thinking about memory more.
One of the things I had lost was the project file for a new track I’d been working on. The track was sort of finished, but I hadn’t been happy with the ending and there were some touchups I would have liked to make. However, I was now unable (at least without a lot of work) not able to do so. Fortunately for me, I had exported and uploaded the unfinished track on Soundcloud (privately), so I still had what I’d made. Instead of ditching the track (as I sometimes would in this case), I decided to work around the context of the lost project file.
The track is musically very simple, revolving around a piano loop and a breakbeat and some speech samples. The main speech sample says “Take this mild drug, and you will have a nice sleep without any nightmares.” So I thought about how when I don’t sleep well (as is often the case), it usually revolves around some uncomfortable memory, and the ingestion of a drug would be to effectively ‘repress’ these memories. Perhaps my laptop needed to repress some memories and that was the problem?
I thought this fit weirdly well with the structure of the song as well. The repetitive nature of it, accompanied with growing distortion and a sudden cut at the end mimics (at least for me) the process of trying to sleep and the stress involved (sometimes), followed by the sudden unconsciousness. The track can be found here:


I made some artwork to reflect this as well. I started with an MRbrain2I Brain scan, that I distorted using a ‘pinch’ tool (I changed the colours too). This was to mimic shrinkage in the brain (associated with memory loss), but also happened to make a nice pattern (pictured right). This aesthetically pleasing result of my ‘damaged’ brain reminded me of ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, which provides some interesting insight into human memory (as well as just being a great film).
Anyway, I wasnrepression art fix‘t totally satisfied with this as a final artwork, so I went in search of a damaged polaroid filter (I guess to make my point more obvious). The one I settled on has the appearance of the top half being burned away, which when overlaid with the MRI scan, removes most of the brain (pictured left).



I guess my thoughts at the end of this have been about how we like to intervene with memory. A perfect memory is often seen as a virtue, and yet I’m sure most people have things they would rather forget. Preservation of memory is perhaps easier, particularly in this age where you can record almost anything you do. The removal of human memories is something that people perhaps fantasise about, and is actually the basis of the afore-mentioned ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’. There would of course be problems surrounding this (which is explored in the film), as often our negative experiences shape us, and the removal of them would make us ‘less human’. As I don’t want to babble (I may have already), I’ll finish on a Nietzsche quote:

“Blessed are the forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders.”

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