Technology and Cognition

Dematerialization, Media, and Memory in the Digital Age by David R. Burns/ Do we ‘read’ a Van Gogh today as we ‘read’ a Van Gogh twenty years ago? by Andrew Denham
Saturday, 17 September, 2011 - 17:00 - 18:00
Chair Person: 
Robert B. Lisek
David R. Burns
Andrew Denham
Sabanci Center Room 6

Dematerialization, Media, and Memory in the Digital Age

by David R. Burns

Dematerialization, media, and memory in the digital age explores the relationship between the media industry’s representation of important events and our personal and collective memories of these events.  The paper investigates what happens when an important personal and collective event is recorded to digital and neuronal memory systems.  The paper also examines the space between an individual’s personal memories of real-time events and media’s influence over an individual’s constructed memories of these events.  Because digital sequences of images are broadcast in real time to media outlets worldwide at the same time as important events unfold, an international consciousness is informed and influenced by these images both during and after these events.  On the ten-year anniversary of 9/11, my paper explores and illustrates the effects that the repeated broadcast of lossless imagery of the fall of the World Trade Center has on the individual and collective consciousness.

The paper presentation will also include screening the author’s abstract 3D computer animation.  The animation examines the author’s memory of the fall of the World Trade Center in New York City on 9/11.  On that day, the author watched the tragic events unfold outside his apartment in lower Manhattan while simultaneously watching the events broadcast digitally to his television in real time.  Screening the abstracted representation of this event to the conference participants opens up a dialogue between a newly formed collective memory of events and the author’s personal memory and representation of the fall of the World Trade Center in New York City.


Do we ‘read’ a Van Gogh today as we ‘read’ a Van Gogh twenty years ago?

by Andrew Denham

This paper discusses how ‘culture,’ in an era of unprecedented technological and social change (a digital global connectedness with and in everything), inscribes or sculpts itself on the neural networks in the brain. An evolution in the way we ‘read,’ decode, interpret and process (visual) information. The paper suggests our innate social behaviour patterns and techno-cultural inflection in negotiating networked cyberspace initiate need for a paradigmatic shift to define how these iterative cybernetic loops between socio-cultural immaterial relations and the neural networks in the brain facilitate an evolved perceptual process and contextual reading of ‘visual language.’ How does this digital connectedness in and with everything subsume our collective psyche to sculpt the neural networks in the brain and as a result evolve our social behaviour, cognitive wherewithal and aesthetic processing in the perceptual and psychological reading of visual information?

The paper attempts to arbitrate interdisciplinary thinking at the intersection of technology (the social behavioural systems and mental constructs in networked transactions), art and design (how we decode and perceive the visual, contextual research practice) and science (current paradigms of scientific investigation into the ‘reading’ and psychology of art, yet also a neurologically derived understanding of aesthetic processing). It is suggested that socio-cultural systems and mental constructs in the technologically inflected mediation of simultaneous networked information propagate emergent epistemological learning patterns. This in turn creates profound differences in the way Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants[1] access, decode, interpret and process this acquired (visual) information as knowledge?

What I’m really interested in is the empirical documentation of the socio-cultural behaviour and automated (unconscious) responses that underlie the primary event. These may include social behavioural patterns and mental constructs in networked communications, mimetic behaviour, information filtering, concentration, overload and processing. Operating adjacent to the cognitive / perceptual systems we employ to mediate concurrent networked information, it is proffered that these mental processes may hasten an evolution in ways of knowing, ways of seeing, knowledge acquisition and usage, information processing, aesthetic processing and social behavioural patterns. Can we separate the extent and invasiveness of socio-cultural behavioural precedent in mediating concomitant networked information systems from the contextual ‘reading’ and aesthetic processing of the visual? Are we oversimplifying or reducing the component parts to something that is a far more complex process?

1 Definitions classified by Small & Vorgan in their 2008 book ‘iBrain.’