Memory

Based on Memory

Memory is basically a process through which all the relevant information is encoded, accumulated, and the recovered when needed. In first step we receive information from our surrounding, friends and family and we add it up in our memory. Here we start screening the relevant data. After that we store that relevant data or information for a certain period of time which is basically the second step. The last step is recovering or retrieval. This usually takes place when we need to use that particular information which is stored in our memory. We have to locate it and then we need to bring it in our consciousness. At times, these retrieval process failed since the information we are trying to recall was very old and was not of that much importance which can be stored for ages.

However, the memorization is a process which includes learning some important information and keeping it stored in our memory for a certain time period.

Memory has its own effect in different era and it can be altered with the passage of time exactly like the way we want.

Introduction to Memory

Memory is the power of the mind to remember things. According to Hacking:

"Memory has always had political or ideological overtones, but each epoch has found its own meaning in memory" (Hacking, 1995, p. 200).

If you look back into the history then you can see that the collective memory is divided into five periods. The first period is all about the collective memory of the people without writing. Oral culture represented a society in which people either didn't write or writing and understanding the symbols was quite limited usually by a small group of people.

Antiquity is the second period in which the major emphasis was on the oral memory and beside it written memory was also discussed.

The third phase is seen by creating a balance between the oral and written memories and by altering their function. Oral transmission was an important part of this period. Writing was considered as a small addition to memory and the collected knowledge used to make the memory worthwhile.

From 16th century and up till now, it is considered as the fourth phase in which progress has been made in written memory linked with printing and literacy. 18th century was quite a different period if we talk about the history of memory because in this period the meaning of memory immediately extended but soon it was all over.

Current phase, the last phase, revolutionary changes can be seen which resulted in expansion of memory. In today's world, people don't have very rich memories and they do not dwell in their pasts very much.

Oral Culture Memory

The oral culture depends upon the knowledge that is stored. Though, for the growth and to spread the knowledge, such societies greatly depend upon 'ethnic memory' that differs with the literary societies' memory in terms of precision, orientation, and content. In oral cultures, people thought that there were no changes and things remained the same and this is because unconsciously the oral transmission continually builds up and readjusts the past to accommodate the present.

In oral culture, the past is connected to the present for the sake of its existence. The past remains alive as long as it is needed by the present and due to this limitation, the response time of such societies is quite limited and therefore the longer periods cannot be differentiated.

"An oral culture is not held in everybody's memory store. Memories vary as does experience. Bits may be held by different people" (Goody, 1998, p. 94).

In oral cultures, the variability and originality of memory is connected through the means of formation and to spread memory available in those societies. In literary cultures, the selection of memory and its plurality is an outcome of phonetic writing ability so that the cultural innovation can be generated.

In today's world, a person can belong to several different groups but in an oral culture that was not an option a person can belong to a single group and that memory of the single group kept the identity of the individual up-to-date. There is a similarity between the memory in oral and modern societies that we can observe how the general rule of structural amnesia works that tells us the way to control and guide the memory using social institutions. In both the societies, to remember and forget something is not random but it's selective. This process of structural amnesia suggests that "the strength and weakness of recall depend(s) on a mnemonic system that is the whole social order" (Douglas, 1986, p. 72).

Art of Memory

In this phase, more control was gain on oral memory. Oral memory kept on conveying the sense of the past and that cannot distinguish between the historical and mythological. The ancient philosophers, viewed memory as a basis of immortality and knowledge. The greatest Greek philosophers were not completely successful in integrating history and memory.

The technique, art of memory, gives a fundamental role to mental images. Without an image there is no thought and the meaning of that recollection is apprehending something as an image. To locate each element in imaginary places of memory in order to remember so that it can be easily recover in its appropriate place by actually looking in those places is mnemotechnics. The art of memory has the high status in the old times because it was practiced by elite class like orators and scholars. In Greece culture, memory is considered to be the cause of all arts and sciences where as in Roman culture "memory was placed at the heart of all teaching, learning and thought" (Samuel, 1994, p. vii).

In oral culture of Roman and Greek antiquity, the major portion of what people wanted to communicate had to be dedicated to memory and consequently they follow a procedure to aid remembering that made the memory into an imaginary space and this was art of memory. Many people admired the power of memory.

Memory was seen as a basis of reality because it permitted to recall the condition of blessed happiness. As memory played an important part of virtue therefore for the formation of moral character the technology of memory is considered a very important feature.

Memory in Pre-Modern Age

Oral transmission still played an important role. For the preservation of knowledge, trained memory was considered an important means.

In this age, memory was still considered as a kind of book in which the images were imprinted even though the scholars were using the writing technique. "Generally, it can said that throughout most of the Middle Ages, literates elites shared with pre-literary folk a common reliance upon oral transmission to teach most of what they knew about the past" (Eisenstein, 1966, p. 53).

At that time people didn't think that history can brought change into their lives and it was hard to differentiate between the past and the present. People believed that behind all the historical processes there is God and they do whatever God asked them to do. The thought that the past and the memory cannot be used to understand the present or the future but it tells there is some divine power behind it.

With the development of print culture, the image of the antiquity became clearer and it seems that it is less resembling with the present. The scholars on the other hand immediately understand the historical facts and they do not need any sort of interpretation. From sixteenth and seventeenth centuries onwards a new meaning was given to historical facts. Letters were used to preserve the memory, books were printed and libraries were built which created the importance of written documents among the people. In the middle Ages, memory was praised greatly because it helped in preserving the knowledge. But in eighteenth century, the written material was not considered safe and instead the people thought that it is safer to use the vocal context in order to preserve the knowledge.

Then in the end of the Middle Ages, people preferred experience, observation, reason and intelligence over art of memory and that brought an end to it and after that the mythical and the historical can be clearly differentiated. After all those developments there was some fundamental issues and disputes that who would be the owner of the memory and whose ideas of the past will got the opportunity to be printed in official monuments and memorials.

Memory and Modern Society

"The progressive mass of information produced by increasingly specialized disciplines and the multiplication of books meant that memory, however finely trained, was no longer an adequate container of knowledge" (Yeo, 2001, p. 80-7).

The people started building libraries, archives and museums and they also published encyclopedias and dictionaries with new motivation to preserve knowledge as soon as they realized that the individual memory won't be enough for the expansion of knowledge.

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