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Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age, by Viktor Mayer-Princeton U Press


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#1 Ray

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Posted 26 September 2009 - 10:54 AM

I just ordered this title--has anyone else read it?

Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age
Viktor Mayer-Schönberger

Here's a link to the publisher's page for the book (which includes a trailer and a PDF of the first chapter); some quips from the publisher:

"Delete looks at the surprising phenomenon of perfect remembering in the digital age, and reveals why we must reintroduce our capacity to forget. Digital technology empowers us as never before, yet it has unforeseen consequences as well. [...] In Delete, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger traces the important role that forgetting has played throughout human history, from the ability to make sound decisions unencumbered by the past to the possibility of second chances."

Interesting, though, to think of dance as immediately qualifying his thesis!

#2 bart

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Posted 26 September 2009 - 11:46 AM

Intriguing. Ray, I'd love to hear your thoughts about the implications regarding dance.

I Googled a bit and came across another brief summary from a blogger:

Digital technology empowers us as never before, yet it has unforeseen consequences as well. Potentially humiliating content on Facebook is enshrined in cyberspace for future employers to see. Google remembers everything we've searched for and when. The digital realm remembers what is sometimes better forgotten, and this has profound implications for us all.


This made me thinking about a reference to Federico Fellini, a fantasist who was always spinning outrageous and usually untruthful versions of his past. The biographer John Baxter, writing about all the "remembered events and characaters" in Fellini's film, Amacord:

Nothing stifles imagination more than a good memory, particularly someone else's.


Fellini was on the side of imagination and probably couldn't have cared less about being exposed. Most people, however, might have to give this some thought.

#3 dirac

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Posted 26 September 2009 - 11:56 AM

I just ordered this title--has anyone else read it?

Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age
Viktor Mayer-Schönberger

Here's a link to the publisher's page for the book (which includes a trailer and a PDF of the first chapter); some quips from the publisher:

"Delete looks at the surprising phenomenon of perfect remembering in the digital age, and reveals why we must reintroduce our capacity to forget. Digital technology empowers us as never before, yet it has unforeseen consequences as well. [...] In Delete, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger traces the important role that forgetting has played throughout human history, from the ability to make sound decisions unencumbered by the past to the possibility of second chances."

Interesting, though, to think of dance as immediately qualifying his thesis!


Thanks for posting, Ray, and let us know your thoughts once you've started the book. I too would be interested in hearing from anyone who's read it.

#4 papeetepatrick

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Posted 26 September 2009 - 12:25 PM

There's a lot about how the machine itself remembers, but, interestingly, it doesn't always lead to a forgetting by certain avid users of the medium. I have found at least one user who has a 'memorization gift' that is much like mine, from having memorized much music, most likely. In both cases, we remember almost every word with which we're both familiar from back to 2004, when we both started, from online texts, viz., certain forums and blogs (and not just correspondence with each other, but which both had read.) So it works in strange ways. I'm interested in this book, too, although what has been said here is of a sort that is more well-known but very important: People put a lot of personal things on the internet that they ought not to, because they don't think it will backfire later. But it often does. But the 'letting the machine remember' is also exactly like when the clerks at the grocery store no longer had to figure out the change they had to give back. I rely on my online banking for nearly everything in terms of remembering things for me in that way.

As for what bart says about Fellini, there are many PoMo types who seriously reinvent their personas on blogs, of course. I think this is pretty deadly unless behind it there is something ultimately even more fantastic. In fact, that does happen, but it's much more frequently the opposite, and so there are those addicts who 'live' this way.

#5 Ray

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Posted 10 October 2009 - 06:45 AM

[...] I'm interested in this book, too, although what has been said here is of a sort that is more well-known but very important: People put a lot of personal things on the internet that they ought not to, because they don't think it will backfire later. [...]


Finally getting a toehold into this book and the focus does seem to be focused on the public effects of never-deleted information, as papeetepatrick implies--so it's interested in the benefits of forgetting as they accrue in the civic/social sense rather than intellectually or epistemologically. Not surprising, considering the author's disciplinary affiliations (public policy and government). A tad disappointing for me in this regard, but a good read.

I've also started James Buchan's Frozen Desire: Meaning of Money. Utterly captivating introduction; more later.

#6 dirac

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Posted 10 October 2009 - 01:15 PM

Thanks, Ray. The other day I had thought of posting to ask you if you'd had time to look at the book.

....it's interested in the benefits of forgetting as they accrue in the civic/social sense rather than intellectually or epistemologically.


There must be something out there that addresses the topic in those latter senses??


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