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Chapter 1, question 1:

I find that I censor myself more frequently now that I am older and have seen the effects of internet use. It's very frustrating because I do not believe perfection is a desirable trait in anyone or anything because it's humanly impossible. Knowing that all of my actions are kept forever and remembered by something intangible and can be used against me gives me an extreme sense of paranoia. – BT

I un-tag pictures that portray me in a way I do not want to be portrayed. – Anne-Randolph Scott

Chapter 1, question 2:

The ability to forget helps people who have made mistakes and taken the necessary steps to change as a result a chance to start again. Perfect memory takes that away. – BT

Chapter 2, question 2:

If there were a way to better capture the essence of the happy or comforting memories we create, I would be all for it, but I don't think that photographs of an event can ever fully recreate the feelings we had during the split second that the shutter was going off. – Katie Collins

Chapter 2, question 4:

- (Katie’s reference to “He’s just not that into you”)

I absolutely hate it when someone will text me to say 'did you see what I wrote on your wall?' or 'I just sent you an email, check it out and get back to me.' - Katie Collins


The questions and responses in this forum refer to Chapters 1-2 (1-49) in Mayer-Schönberger's Delete. For reference, the Essay Sequence assignment. Discussion leaders will post their Keywords by April 15. Commentaries — Group 6 commentary — will be posted within a week after the class presentation on April 19.

Chapter 1

1. On page 5, Catherine Davis (a PTA co-president) raises a few interesting points regarding digital memory: "if we had to worry that any information about us would be remembered for longer than we live, would we still express our views on matters of trivial gossip, share personal experiences, make various political comments, or would we self-censor?" In your use of Web 2.0 technologies, do you feel the need to censor your activity due to digital memory? Why or why not?

2. According to Mayer-Schonberger, "it is not technology that forces us to remember. Technology facilitates the demise of forgetting…" (p 14). In your opinion, how do you think digital memory and its inability to forget will affect society? Will it improve or inhibit us? How will it alter the professional world?

—Katelyn Webster


Chapter 2

1. Before modern technology, books were tedious to produce and very expensive. Because of high prices and high levels of craftsmanship, only a select group of literate nobles or high class citizens had them. Books had both monetary and intrinsic value.

Has the mass production of books and other media (photography, records, and film) cheapened the overall artistry and value of presented content? If you believe the benefits of media mass production outweighs the “cheapening” effect, please explain.

2. In the beginning of chapter 2, Mayer-Schonberger talks about a woman named AJ who has an amazing memory. Yet for her, “remembering everything is both maddening and lonely.”

The author again addresses in the final paragraph of the chapter: “Until recently, the fact that remembering has always been at least a little bit harder than forgetting helped us humans avoid the fundamental question of whether we would like to remember everything forever if we could. Not anymore.”

Modern media like photographs, newspapers, and the Internet serve as great reminders of our past history, what happens when certain things cannot be forgotten and continually “haunt” people? Does it bother anyone that we no longer have a choice because all records are seemingly permanent?

— Mike Yi

3. "Harvard professor Daniel Schacter is skeptical of such a mechanistic description of the human brain as a gigantic and precise, albeit imperfect, filing cabinet. We must be careful, he reckons, that we are not caught up in metaphors of how digital computers store and retrieve information, and in the shadow of modern information processing conceptualize the human brain as a deterministic biological computer. In contrast to such a mechanistic conception, Schacter proposes a view of human long-term memory that is not unalterably etched in stone and from which we simply retrieve. Instead, Schacter suggests that our brain constantly reconfigures our memory- what we remember, based at least in part on our present preferences and needs. For Schacter, our memory is a living evolving construct." (pg. 20)

Do you share Schacter's skepticism of viewing the human brain as a biological computer? How do you envision the memory and the human brain as functioning? Do you have a better model or analogy that you are familiar with?

4. "Today, we have impressive human technologies to help us communicate with each other, from the mobile phone to video chat. Yet, the technical gadgetry has not altered the fundamentals: human communication is still time consuming, and as a result, so is human remembering." (pg. 26)

In light of modern technology, do you agree with this statement? How does this relate to your personal experience with modern communication technology? Do you think the ability to more easily multitask communication with other tasks has led to a change in the amount of time we spend communicating? How time consuming are modern communication methods (email, texting, IMs, etc) compared to older methods?

— Jordan Davis



Responses

Chapter 1

Question 1: I find that I censor myself more frequently now that I am older and have seen the effects of internet use. I used to put up pictures with red cups and write inappropriate things on my friends walls for a laugh. Now, though, I am paranoid about what other people with think of me, specifically my family and future employers. I find that I have to be the same person both in public and in private. It's very frustrating because I do not believe perfection is a desirable trait in anyone or anything because it's humanly impossible. Knowing that all of my actions are kept forever and remembered by something intangible and can be used against me gives me an extreme sense of paranoia. It's like digital memory has the same function as God, to remember and then use my actions against me to banish me to hell (or prevent me from getting a job).

Question 2: Digital memory's in ability to forget is going to have a strong negative effect on society, in my opinion. It already has to a certain extent. The idea of the second chance is completely being thrown out the window. I thought that was a good point that the book made. The ability to forget helps people who have made mistakes and taken the necessary steps to change as a result a chance to start again. Perfect memory takes that away. We will never forget that 20 years ago in college Sally So-and-So drank a handle of vodka and spent the night with her head in a toilet because her friends took a picture and tagged it on Facebook. Some employer will see this and say hey Sally you're not good enough for us because you were a dumb teenager. Well guess what buddy so was virtually every other current adult. Everyone makes mistakes and so do societies. This is a touchy subject, but if we had had the Internet prior to the Civil War and were able to see all of the horrible things that happened racial hatred would extend well into our day with appalling intensity. It still exists, but I like to think to a lesser extent. A society cannot carry the blame of a past that is out of their control, but the Internet will force us to do that because any terrible thing that we do and is posted will be used against us. This permanent memory will continue to breed paranoid people and increase prejudices because we see what dumb things people can do and judge them for it even though we do dumb things too. It's hypocritical but true and it scares the crap out of me that society could be doomed as a result.

— BT

Chapter 2
Question 2: Although the idea of being able to remember everything forever seems ideal, reading about AJ and how much time she spends dwelling in the past is pretty depressing. When I read this question, the first example that popped into my mind are those ever-present school photos that all of our parents have of us, that they insist on keeping on display somewhere in our houses. Personally, when I see my old school photos, I am forced to remember the awkwardness and discomfort that plagued me for during most of my childhood years. I don't look at those photos and see 'how cute I was' as my parents do; I simply have flashbacks to horrifying recess experiences or memories of the boy I liked that didn't like me back. Thankfully, these photos don't exist online, but the same concept applies to photos tagged of me on facebook from nights in college when I made poor decisions that have now been memorialized on the unforgiving internet.

So I would say that yes, it does bother me that we don't have the option to forget some of these bad memories. If there were a way to better capture the essence of the happy or comforting memories we create, I would be all for it, but I don't think that photographs of an event can ever fully recreate the feelings we had during the split second that the shutter was going off.

Question 4: I completely agree with this statement. Human communication is fundamentally time consuming, but I think that with the advent of all these new technologies, it has become inherently more so. I think that with the combination of communication technologies that college students in particular are faced with today, we spend far more time doing so. Every morning, we wake up and check our email, we call or text a friend or family member, we say hello to our roommates on our way out the door, we sit in class and are lectured to for an hour or so, oftentimes while also facebook chatting or using AIM or some other instant messaging tool…and all that is before we've even gotten to lunchtime.

This question initially reminded me of a quote from the movie He's Just Not That Into You, where Drew Barrymore's character, a frustrated single woman, complains about modern communication technologies and their ability to squash a budding new romance in its early stages:

“I had this guy leave me a voicemail at work, so I called him at home, and then he emailed me to my BlackBerry, and so I texted to his cell, and now you just have to go around checking all these different portals just to get rejected by seven different technologies. It's exhausting.”

She pretty much sums it up for me. I get frustrated very easily with other people who insist upon utilizing many forms of communication when I think that a simple phone call would do. I absolutely hate it when someone will text me to say 'did you see what I wrote on your wall?' or 'I just sent you an email, check it out and get back to me.' Honestly, I think it would be much simpler if we could pare back down to one or two forms of communication, so we would all be on the same page and we could spend more time out having experiences, rather than transmitting those experiences to one another through a secondary, tertiary, or quaternary mode of communication and expression.

—Katie Collins

Chapter 2, Question 4

I agree completely with what Katie wrote above. The Drew Barrymore quote is especially relevant today because most of our interaction with others is technological. It's gotten to the point that even fights happen because of technology ("Did you see what he wrote on her wall?!", "Look at what she texted me!" And then the fights happen over text and Facebook. It's quite ironic, because a lot of miscommunication happens with technological communication. Sarcasm isn't so easily detected via text, and an innocent wall post can seem suspicious. Yet, do we ever once think to confront someone in person?

If you don't delete your inbox, you have an entire archive of your personal life, (ahem, Tiger Woods) to incriminate you, and is it ever really gone? Nope. It's amazing how complicated things can get.

-Lorelle Stephanski

Chapter 2, Question 1

Without question the benefits of mass production of books and other literary works completely outweigh the disadvantages. In the past, the prices were so high on books that only few people could afford them, and because there were less efficient methods of distribution only a small number of interested purchasers could receive one. Yes, this does help maintain a certain artistry because only the best works make it to the book shelves, however, the mass production of so many books raise the probability of someone creating a real gem. There are more authors, more works, and more people to read them. Anyone can read or watch whatever they wish, sometimes for free. Mass production may be ruining the monetary value of a once lucrative industry, but in regard to losing artistic value there is no case for argument. Today's method of distribution actually help encourage artistic quality in movies, books, and pictures. There are so many players in this industry that in order to reach a large audience/be successful, an artist's, actor's, or author's work must be exceptional.

-Brandon Shipp

Chapter 1, Question 1

Yes, especially as a college senior looking for a job. I actually deleted my Facebook account and created a new one because of this. I know that the pictures and comments that were on my old account are not completely gone, but I felt that at least they would be harder to access. Now, when taking pictures, I try to make sure I do not have a beer in my hand. I un-tag pictures that portray me in a way I do not want to be portrayed. I think twice about joining certain facebook groups and I am careful about what I write on others walls. I don’t know how companies do it, but I have heard stories about potential employers being able to view your profile, even if you aren’t friends with them. The job market it already tough, and I would hate to not get a job because of something that was posted on my Facebook page.

-Anne-Randolph Scott

Chapter 2, Question 1
It's a little to easy to try and polarize the equation by looking at only the values "cheapness" v. "artistry". When you cheapen the means to produce units of memory, you simply fundamentally shift the way the system works. Sure there is more crap for us to sift through, but there is also more innovation. The key point to think about is that by cheapening the medium, we have shifted everything.

When the printing press was developed, it caused a major shift in influence from the old pastoral power (to use Foucault) regimes to a subset of the middle class. You start to see the waning influence of the monarchy legitimated by the church's stranglehold on information. One of the most sweeping changes in European culture as a whole was at the very least an indirect result of cheapening the system. We owe much of our modern way of life to that shift. Is that a good thing? Who knows? But who is to say that the cheapening of our memory wont lead to a change just as monumental?
-Gordon Ligon

Chapter 1, Question 2

Like everything, the unlimited lifetime of digital content on the internet can be seen as both positive and negative. On the plus side, successful achievements can remain online almost indefinitely. Anything bad is there forever too, however, so it is important for people to police their online presences. Overall though, its hard to argue that the benefits of presence of social networks are outweighed by there negative attributes.

-Elliott Ditman

Chapter 1, Question 1:

Absolutely. The nature of the web and sites like Facebook make me feel as though I can’t make a move or express an opinion without being seen or heard – and most generally by the people I wasn’t speaking to/reacting for. Not only do we have to be continuously mindful of what we’re saying and the images were posting because of the effects it may have on us later in life, but we’ve now become so accustomed to doing this that it seems normal to us to “block” users and only allow certain personal information to be “visible” to the public. In truth, I’ve begun to stay away from Facebook more lately because while these options provide us with a sense of security, we all know this minimal protection would do little to keep any determined individual out of our “private” lives…or at least any part of it that we choose to post on-line.

With this in mind, I can’t help but wonder…are these web technologies creating a society that NEEDS to be seen and heard continuously? Has anyone ever questioned why you would post emotional insights, relationship status, contact information, and incriminating photos within an information system that’s open to the public (friends, acquaintances, and strangers alike)? Why do we so readily (even compulsively) offer information that was once considered privileged to the entire world with almost no thought? Is it because its as simple as clicking a few keys – or because we’re starting to need to know everything about everyone at all times, and in turn have everyone know everything about our lives at any given time? How many times has a friend asked “Didn’t you read my Facebook status?”

Meagan Watson

Chapter 1, Question 1:

As most people have already mentioned, the big issue with forgetting seems most apparent in Facebook. I completely agree with others that say that they censure themselves so essentially things don’t come back to haunt them. This is probably one of the reasons why we are all surprisingly more “unconnected” to web 2.0 technologies then past groups of students because we are actually trying to prevent these backlash occurrences from happening. The most memorable of my own experience is actually my cousin’s status updates. She sometimes put’s up statements which can be offensive, and should be censured. As a result several people posted back to her saying “You know your clients or employer might see this right?” or flatly saying they were insulted by her post. My mother and I fear that these one day may come back to plague her, but there is no way we can take any of her statements back from the abyss of the internet.
- Elizabeth Hardwick

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