In the first chapter, “Failing to Forget the ‘Drunken Pirate’,” of his book, Viktor Mayer-Schönberger manages to tie the theme of this week’s class, judgment, with the idea of collective societies’ ability to forget. He posits that technology, and more specifically the internet and abilities of Web 2.0 type websites have expanded the ability of our collective memory beyond the capability of the basic human mind and in this, we need to be weary in how this changes the paradigm of how we theorize both memory and how we forget. It seems clear that the author believes there is a disconnect between our human and digital memories, and not rectifying this disconnect could lead to some pretty serious consequences.
Mayer- Schönberger begins the chapter relating a social media horror story which I believe exemplifies many different things. First and foremost, it seems to exemplify how little savvy or thought can go into what we post online in social media. This ties into judgment in two levels. One: it illuminates the judgment we have to put into what we post online. Two: It shows the judgments others make on us in what we post online. Mayer-Schönberger ties this into the idea of our collective and individual memories noting, “This case, however, is not about the validity (or stupidity) of the university’s decision to deny Stacy her certificate” (2). He goes on to add, “It is about the importance of forgetting.” I think this frames memory and the process of forgetting into an interesting and important dynamic with this concept of digital memory as something that never forgets. I think a lot of this certainly ties into our own personal responsibilities to what we decide to or not post, as the author notes, but I wonder what we as a class think about how this speaks to teaching about develop voice and identity in our writing.
Mayer-Schönberger notes the example of Andrew Feldmar, a psychotherapist, how, in an interdisciplinary journal, admitted to using LSD, and then being banned from crossing the border because of it. One would think a safe place to divulge this information would be in an interdisciplinary journal in the context of one’s career, but with no criminal record and a simple Google search, this gentleman was banned from crossing borders in a country. I think the author here is asking us to question how far is too far? Mayer-Schönberger seems to be saying that, in our current state, context means nothing and keywords can damage a life as much as a criminal record.
The author seems to note that in the past, before this digital memory was prevalent, we had a culture of forgetting, where our past actions and mistakes were memories we chose to forget and as such there wasn't as much of a danger for them to come back and haunt us. I post the question, however, is this really true? Our method of keeping records is surely not as efficient as it once was, but Mayer-Schönberger examples of criminals records being “forgotten” I don’t think is as convenient a comparison as he would make it out to be. This being said, I agree with his supposition that being a slave to our past actions isn't fair and the convenience of this digital memory makes it harder to outlive mistakes we have made in the past.
I don’t think Mayer-Schönberger has the answers to how we change this paradigm of the digital memory never forgetting, but I do think he is right to question us being both more aware of it and growing savvier in our use of it. While I think at times he plays loose with some of the terminology he uses in regards to our collective memory and its history both of “forgetting” and remembering, I’d be lying to say this is the first of these types of articles this semester that didn't give me pause for thought about how I feel about some of these technological issues that we face today. While typically I am not of the fear-mongering sort and think we should be more embracing of technology in our lives, Mayer-Schönberger certainly re-frames the argument in a way that speaks to the larger discussion on judgment (both by ourselves and on ourselves) that needs to continue.