As a French philosopher, professor, and former criminal, Bernard Stiegler is in a unique position to critique memory, which he does in the fifth chapter Critical Terms for Media Studies, entitled “Memory,” when comparing the human relationship with memory through its externalized mediums he observes the progression of “mnemotechniques,” methods of memory storage like writing, to “mnemotechnologies,” methods of systematic memory storage through technology, through each subsequent epoch (71). Stiegler observes, that during our current epoch the Internet has become our major technological device for memory storage, thus creating an associated hypomnesic milieu; an interactive space to house memory.
Stiegler proposes the notion that humans first externalized memory to cope with “retentional finitude,” or limited brain space. Our finite minds have, through each epoch, attempted to create better and better technologies to store memory (65). And although not addressed directly, Stiegler shines a light upon the interaction between technology and society. This idea expands upon the study on social shaping, by Nancy Baym, and its two-way relationship with technology.
According to Stiegler it is important to note the distinction between associated and dissociated mediums; this distinction blurs the line between the consumer and producer of media (83) This can most easily be seen when observing examples— a dissociated media may include radio or television, while an associated medium normally refers to the Internet; only the Internet allows for consumer contributions to its databank of memory. Although subtle, the difference accounts for Stiegler’s optimistic view the Internet age. This is because the Internet allows for the interpersonal memory advancement through technology, as long as the Internet remains free and open.
This last point was only briefly discussed in class. And, although Stiegler defends the Internet as a budding technology with the ability to further our collective memory, he implies that this will only remain the case so long as the Internet remains an associated medium.