Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Manipulating memory by photo display - unexpected results

An experiment I began a year ago has had some unexpected results:
Gordon's Notes: Happiness is a selective memory - manipulating memory for good and for profit

My approach to creating a selectively-false and happy set of memories is a large collection of family photos that cycle across our array of computer displays. These leverage the principle of selective reinforcement of memory -- given two proximate events, unbalanced reinforcement of one will decrease retrieval of the second. It as though as one memory grows it usurps the foundation of its "neighbor" memories. In this experiment the happy photos selectively blur away all other events.

Truth is fundamentally overrated in our current universe.
It turns out there's a reason humans don't look at old photo albums all that often. I have now thousands of family related images spanning about 100 years that cycle, at various times, on up to 5 displays. I find that images that are older than about 1-2 years, which is roughly the memory range that I live in, are often unsettling. For the children, 6 months is about the limit.

Even edited for happy events, the pictures show beloved pets that are gone, loved ones that are gone, friendships that have sundered, children that are now different (too quickly), our younger prettier selves.. It all it is a richness of living that we cannot truly contain, we are not "made" to remember...

It feels all too much like a source of wisdom, and I have a considerable fear of wisdom (the price seems always high). It seems to enforce a perspective I otherwise lack, and changes my thinking ...

And yet I am addicted to it. I will likely add tens of thousands of additional legacy images over the next few years ...

Unexpected results indeed!

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