research design laboratory

The Past is Prologue: Automation and the Aggregation of Memory

NN: The Past is Prologue: Automation and the Aggregation of Memory

Making Sense of Memory & History

ICA Pre-Conference
Sponsored by the Communication History Division of the International Communication Association

Date: May 22, 2014
Time: 8:30 AM - 5 PM
Location: Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI)

Proposal by: Mél Hogan, Postdoctoral Fellow in Digital Curation, University of Colorado – Boulder.

Paul Juricic 
Jeff Traynor

The Past is Prologue: Automation and the Aggregation of Memory

There has been a growing trend in mobile apps that attempt to serve as a prosthetic memory device for users, storing journal entries, photos, videos and other social media, along a virtual timeline. These apps also attempt to represent user content in ways that trigger memories, relocate the present, and allow them to revisit the past.

Our presentation looks at three applications in order to open up a discussion about control over, and ownership of, time in relation to data, and draw on archival theories that inform the notion of preservation through social (and anti-social) digital streams. Momento (, is an app intended for a personal experience (as opposed to shared with strangers) and emphasizes the aggregation potential of social media. Similarly, Timehop(, a personal time capsule, automates memory triggers by sending its users a reminder of “the best memories” from previous years. This app includes geolocation data, temperature, images and notes to attempt to convey the “feeling” of that day. Memoir ( aims to “perfect” memory for its users, providing a tool to record in detail their daily happenings by pulling data from social networks and locally stored media. As it declares, “Memoir magically fills in the blanks.”

With troves of user memories being stored in privately owned data centers, this magic can be thought of as using clever engineering and software algorithms to reconstruct the past into a new form of public memory. They serve to counter to perpetual refreshing of content in ‘real time’. However, these applications provide limited curatorial control to their users – thus failing to acknowledge that some things are best forgotten.