Memory practices in the sciences

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Geoffrey C. Bowker 0262025892 MIT Press 2005

Archival problematics

  • Perfect memory has a high overhead: It would be nice if we could preseve all the external murals in Italy, but this militates against our action in the present (we can't paint our current houses).
  • Perfect memory is not what it seems: The Ise Shrine in Japan has been torn down and rebuilt every twenty years since AD 652 using the same tools and skill set; it is recognized as the oldest temple in the country. What is being preserved here is not the ding an sich (which creates a legacy of preservation techniques) but the mode of building (which creates a legacy of organizational forms). The overhead problem of course recurs at this level.
  • Perfect memory does not matter if no one is listening to your stories: The "archival literature" in science is written as if someone someday will have time to go back and read all this welter of material and make sense of it — assigning priority, determining value, and so forth. This is the secular version of the Last Judgment — and is equally dependent on an Entity capable of massive data storage and analysis. There is no evidence that this Entity is in the process of formation.

The Mnemonic Deep, p. 173
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