The Ghost in the Machine: Digital Media and the Art of Remembrance.

Digital media, and in particular mobile media, is arguably changing
the way we capture, share and store the artefacts of memory. Whereas
once the camera would generally only make an appearance on special
occasions, the ubiquity of camera-phones has meant that the camera
is ever present to capture us in all our glory and defeat.

The advent of the mobile camera phone has transformed image
capture from a consciously planned activity to one that can occur
spontaneously. Capturing a moment in time is not just the creation
of a visual artefact to aid the remembrance of past events,
but also a means of enabling individuals to locate themselves in the present.

As we move away from analogue technologies and into a digital realm,
it’s important to consider the implications of such a paradigm shift.
The ways in which digital images are used to communicate
and record information suggests that we are not only using images
to recollect or connect to specific moments, but also as a means of
aiding our memory.

The camera-phone is shaping our personal and collective
memories of events and this is evidenced in the London bombings
when the first pictures and video of the disaster was captured by
eyewitnesses using mobile phones, rather than through traditional
broadcast models. The execution of Saddam Hussein was seen to
be less dignified than originally reported  when mobile footage
of the event emerged a few days after the execution.

What we capture with our digital devices is arguably also changing.
The photographing of objects to aid personal memory is common practice
amongst many camera-phone users. Whether its a wine label,
the cover of a book, or even a menu in a restaurant, this practice
seems more preoccupied with the collection of data than an exercise in

Many people using digital technologies never print their images, and
therefore their images only ever exist as pixels on a screen. Recently,
I visited a friend  and I was surprised to see a computer monitor in
living family room playing a slideshow of family images. Oddly enough
there were no photographs adorning the walls, and I was left contemplating
the purpose of this presentation of images as they shuffled through their
prescribed order as I shared a meal with the family.

But does this need to retain information erode the aesthetic
concerns that have long been associated with photography and the
moving image? And in particular, what do these changes mean for
for visual artists using digital media to explore notions of memory
and remembrance in their work.

Memory studies has emerged as an important field of inquiry
for both academics and artists, its themes often explored through
the work of artists such as Christian Boltanski, Rachel Whiteread
and Bill Viola, to name but a few. The emergence of
networked and convergent media promotes new modes
of self-expression and thus presents us with new ways
to reminisce, interact and reflect upon the experiences
which shape our personal and collective cultural identity.
Digital media technologies are arguably reconfiguring the creation,
sharing and storage of the digital artefacts associated with
memory. In this paper I will focus on how contemporary media
artists are using digtal media to explore and interrogate
narratives of memory and remembrance.

This is the beginning of my journey to explore the ways that new
digital media technologies are used to capture, share and store the
memories of the future past.


~ by Dean on November 24, 2010.

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