change slightly each time it is refreshed or viewed. Can’t remember if Aunt Millie’s dress at Thanksgiving had a floral or polka dot pattern? The Forgetting Machine will degrade the photos as well, mirroring the fuzzy recollection of human memory.
“Autobiographical memory has become externalized and public through the emergence of recording devices and social media,” Sweeney said. “The explosion of social media in the 21st century has given these objects wider circulation, allowing them to travel beyond their immediate geographically-bound network.
“By synchronizing public and private memories through their simultaneous decay, it creates the possibility for forgetting in both the public and private spheres.”
Sweeney was commissioned to develop the project by Rhizome, an organization dedicated to emerging artistic practices that engage technology. Her proposal was one of only 10 selected nationwide last year.
Sweeney envisions The Forgetting Machine as an app that will appeal most to artists who work with digital media, and she expects to have it finished this summer and will submit it to the iPhone App Store for distribution. But meanwhile, it remains food for thought regarding the wisdom of extended prosthetic memories.
“Recent work in psychology and memory science suggests that forgetting can be productive as a treatment for traumatic memory disorders,” Sweeney said. “This paper looks at the tension between the act of forgetting and a culture saturated with persistent public memory objects.
“Our culture is obsessed with saving and preserving. The idea of forgetting is radical.”
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