For Vilém Flusser, culture is achieved through cumulative
and processing forms of memory. Influenced
by a historical consciousness that grew out
of writing, the library prevailed over oral memory
(myth) and material memory (magic) in the triad of
cumulative forms of memory, and established dominance
as cultural memory. Processing memories
such as scholarly discourse feed the library. This
working of the human intellect directed toward the
library led, according to Flusser, to ideologizing
the library and the ensuing consequences: it no
longer served human beings as a store to ward off
forgetting; instead, human beings put themselves
at the service of the library in order to seek in its
halls protection from entropy. The “sacralization
of the library” (“Gedächtnisse,” in: Philosophien
der neuen Technologie, 1989, p. 46; translated from
the German) is revealed, for example, in Platonic
epistemology, which assumes there is lost eternal
universal knowledge that must be found again,
which accumulated in the universal libraries of antiquity.
This powerful nexus of subject, discourse,
and library recalls Michel Foucault’s dispositifs,
which process valid knowledge in discourses and
make it visible in materializations such as libraries.
All other information is hidden in archives or
abandoned to entropy.
Flusser sees in electronic memories a possibility to overcome the dispositif of the library: they store more reliably than human brains, permitting the latter to concentrate not on collecting information but rather on playfully processing it. But perhaps it is precisely in the unconsciousness of forgetting that we canfind a root of human creativity, which cannot grow in the command lines of computer code. Therefore, for “[…] something to be preserved in the memory of the brain, it has to remain mobile in the unconscious raw material, that is to say, it works there; it can never be forgotten. Computers cannot forget anything; brains can. But when they do the one or the other does not depend on a command.” (Negt and Kluge, Geschichte und Eigensinn, 1981, p. 60; translated from the German).
Original article by Daniel Irrgang