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Personal Digital Taxidermy: Imagining the Future-past

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Abstract:

Jim Gemmell and Gordon Bell, scientists working (and self-experimenting) as part of the MyLifeBits project at Microsoft Research, claim that Vannevar Bush’s “Memex” has finally come to pass. All of Bell’s phone calls, IM conversations, websites, emails, are recorded and stored in a cross-linked database. He wears a “SenseCam” around his neck, a device that takes automatic photographs when triggered by a variety of sensors (e.g. a timer, accelerometer, thermometer). In this paper I will read narratives of the personal digital archive (e.g. Total Recall: How the E-Memory Revolution Will Change Everything (Gemmell & Bell, 2010)) alongside Haraway’s “Teddy Bear Patriarchy” in order to provoke questions of technological capabilities for perfect preservation and the control of time via “capture.” As Haraway writes of early scientific photography as "insuring against disappearance," Gemmell talks of MyLifeBits as a project of “digital immortality.” Haraway, however, notes that in capturing, photography also “cannibalizes” life. The personal archive demands new relationships with temporality—the present must be accountable to the past, and also always curated as the imagined past of an imagined future. The personal archive also opens up possibilities for time transcendence - the past in some "complete," "objective," "pure" form is always ready and waiting for searching, sorting, and interacting - seemingly more perfect than science fiction's time travel that requires spatio-temporal displacement. What might we learn from reading the personal digital archive as a form of time travel and control? What are the stakes of a life imagined through such archives?
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Name: 4S Annual Meeting - Abstract and Session Submissions
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http://www.4sonline.org


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p518112_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Harmon, Ellie. "Personal Digital Taxidermy: Imagining the Future-past" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 4S Annual Meeting - Abstract and Session Submissions, Crowne Plaza Cleveland City Center Hotel, Cleveland, OH, <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p518112_index.html>

APA Citation:

Harmon, E. "Personal Digital Taxidermy: Imagining the Future-past" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the 4S Annual Meeting - Abstract and Session Submissions, Crowne Plaza Cleveland City Center Hotel, Cleveland, OH <Not Available>. 2014-11-25 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p518112_index.html

Publication Type: Abstract
Abstract: Jim Gemmell and Gordon Bell, scientists working (and self-experimenting) as part of the MyLifeBits project at Microsoft Research, claim that Vannevar Bush’s “Memex” has finally come to pass. All of Bell’s phone calls, IM conversations, websites, emails, are recorded and stored in a cross-linked database. He wears a “SenseCam” around his neck, a device that takes automatic photographs when triggered by a variety of sensors (e.g. a timer, accelerometer, thermometer). In this paper I will read narratives of the personal digital archive (e.g. Total Recall: How the E-Memory Revolution Will Change Everything (Gemmell & Bell, 2010)) alongside Haraway’s “Teddy Bear Patriarchy” in order to provoke questions of technological capabilities for perfect preservation and the control of time via “capture.” As Haraway writes of early scientific photography as "insuring against disappearance," Gemmell talks of MyLifeBits as a project of “digital immortality.” Haraway, however, notes that in capturing, photography also “cannibalizes” life. The personal archive demands new relationships with temporality—the present must be accountable to the past, and also always curated as the imagined past of an imagined future. The personal archive also opens up possibilities for time transcendence - the past in some "complete," "objective," "pure" form is always ready and waiting for searching, sorting, and interacting - seemingly more perfect than science fiction's time travel that requires spatio-temporal displacement. What might we learn from reading the personal digital archive as a form of time travel and control? What are the stakes of a life imagined through such archives?


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