The Forgetting Machine

An iPhone application that digitally destroys memory objects
Submitted by

Project Location

Highland Park New Jersey United States of America
Artists Involved

Project Description

It was a stunning discovery: Memories are not formed and then pristinely maintained, as neuroscientists thought; they are formed and then rebuilt every time they’re accessed.

The memory is less like a movie, a permanent emulsion of chemicals on celluloid, and more like a play—subtly different each time it’s performed. In my brain, a network of cells is constantly being reconsolidated, rewritten, remade. That two-letter prefix changes everything.

–Jonah Lehrer, "The Forgetting Pill," Wired, February 2012

The Forgetting Machine is a proposed iOS application that works within the field of social psychology and memory science. This project imagines a space in which the reconsolidation theory discussed by Jonah Lehrer governs not only our physical memories but the prosthetic memory objects stored in our archives. This project mimics the materiality of analog objects by destroying digital files a little bit each time they are accessed.

The site for this interaction is the mobile phone, the device we use to capture and store our personal digital memory objects. Users would be able to download and install the application–each time they press the red button the photograph displayed would change slightly. Through the user's act of use or refresh the original becomes inaccessible and is substituted by a new original. Over time this image becomes almost unrecognizable.

Project Timeline and Budget

May - August 2012: Research and Interface Design
September - January 2012: Development of Application
February - March 2012 : Community and QA Testing
April 2012: Submission for App Store Review
April - May 2012: Publicity and Marketing
May 2012: Launch of Application

$100 – one year iOS Developer Program
$2000 – iOS developer consultant (I have already negotiated this fee with a colleague)
$300 – books and research materials
$1000 - artist/developer fee
$600 - publicity materials, including printed and digital materials
$4000 estimated total cost
About the Artist(s) Involved

M.F.A., Columbia University School of the Arts, Concentration in digital media, June 2003.
B.A., Williams College, Honors in Studio Art, 1999. Magna cum laude, Dean's List, Class of 1960s Scholar in Studio Art.
Visiting Student, School of the Museum of Fine Arts, 1997-1998.

“Memory Objects” Digital Things. ACLA, Brown University, 2012.

“Memory Objects” MiT7 unstable platforms: the promise and peril of transition, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2011.

“Way-finding on the Web: Urban Planning and the Virtual Interface.” Electronic Techtonics: Thinking at the Interface. Humanities, Arts, Science and Technology Advanced Collaboratory, Duke University, 2008.

Random Acts of Time, Orange County Center for Contemporary Art, 2012
New Views, Mercer County Community College, November - December 2010.
Snap to Grid, Los Angeles Center for Digital Art, November 2010.
Figuratively Speaking, Village Gallery, Montgomery, Alabama, November 2010.
Reality & Artifice, 2010 New Jersey Arts Annual, New Jersey State Museum, May - October 2010.
Digital Works, The Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences, June 2010.
2008 Catalogue NY, OFFF, Post-Digital Creation Culture, November 2007.
Garden State Project, Gallery 125, Trenton, New Jersey, May 2006.
Buy It Now, Black and White Gallery, New York, NY, December 2004 - January 2005.
Images and review in The New York Sun.
Scope Art Fair, December 2004.
Work presented by the Black and White Gallery.
Rundgang, Kassel, Germany, Summer 2003.
Digital Timepieces, curated by Georg Burwick, UCR/California Photography Museum, May-September 2003.
Faking Real, curated by Stephen Hilger, Leroy Neiman Gallery, Columbia University, April 2003.
Process/ion, curated by Eva Respini, Leroy Neiman Gallery, Columbia University, November 2002.
Living with the Genie Conference, Low Library, Columbia University, March 2002.
Somewhat Corrupt=Computer Art Show, curated by Stephen Apicella-Hitchcock, Plaza Gallery, Fordham University, December 2000.
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