Digital Hyperthymesia

From the first written words, to photography, using external memory aids to support our human memory is an age-old practice. However, rapid technological development has seen the evolution of artificial memory forms that endure indefinitely, such as hard drives and the internet. Tanne van Bree coins the term Digital Hyperthymesia to describe this, based on Hyperthymesia: a rare neuropsychological condition characterized by a superior memory.

By researching the emergence of Digital Hyperthymesia, Tanne anticipates the consequences on our behaviour, identity and perception of time. Her aim is to draw attention to this phenomenon, and to reform our cultural view of memory.

After all, human memory is a duality of remembering and forgetting. This inspired Artificial Ignorance – an algorithm that offers a digital equivalent of ‘forgetting’. The algorithm uses photos from someone’s external memory to find visually similar images on the internet. These new images are saved onto the external memory and serve as ‘memory cues’ to stimulate active remembering as an alternative to the passive display of memories.

Apart from investigating the impact on human memory, the research is also an exploration onto designing volatile information or digital forgetting mechanisms. Tanne hopes to interest the information design field in speculating about structural changes in the way we deal with information besides improving methods of visualizing the growing amount of data.

You can download my thesis here.