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He's so young. The photo is perfect--centered, bright with a Spring overcast, him looking diagonally above the level of the camera, an almost halo of light probably from an unnecessary flashcan making his outline sharp, the background grainy and trending toward sepia. He has dark hair. He has ethnic features about his face and some gingivitis so common to youth of that era.

His figure emits the unrelenting joy of breaking the cycle of poverty and arriving at the genesis of his dreams, to smell the freshly-raked infield dirt, the echo of last night's game, and the view of a hollow stadium years from the first lighted, night game. In that crystal moment when the photograph was taken, "Bingo" Binks had no idea that on the other side of that lens, 70 years hence, he'd be placed on Facebook.

To lighten this biological limitation, we have developed tools--from books to videos--that function as external memory for us. These tools have proved tremendously helpful, as they have made remembering easier and accessible to many more people than ever before. But until a few decades ago, these tools did not unsettle the balance between remembering and forgetting: to remember was the exception; to forget, the default.

I want that picture on paper only. Granted, it's a form of analog memory, but I want it preserved in the medium that he could have expected it to be passed for generations--as a photo! I don't want him exposed to digital-frenzy and social media. He's still alive, feeble--yes, dementia--yes, incontinent--yes, but he's never been online before, and never pursued a technology beyond what he discovered prior to The family always called him a caveman born too late; he preferred working with his hands his post-MLB career was as a master mechanic at Union Pacific for 30 years ; a quarter of his acre is still a garden; he makes his coffee by steeping Maxwell grounds in a pot and straining it with the back of a butter knife.

His time-capsule picture, I want to stand between it and photoshop, and Flikr, and Tumblr, and thumbnail pictures, and all this crap that strips the genuineness--the one-ness--and rarity from it.

The Virtue Of Forgetting Of The Digital Age - Viktor Mayer | Bartleby

In some instances, people may succeed in gaming or otherwise altering digital memory to further their purposes. Other times, accessible digital memory may enhance short-term efficiency but expose individuals or society to potentially harmful consequences How would information added over a person's lifetime be interpreted given that the contexts in which the individual information bits had been collected over the years and decades varied greatly?

I view the merits of digital memory with skepticism mostly because I'm a Luddite, a digital immigrant, and have eschewed the most trendy gadgets at Best Buy my home computer is a speedy PC with a DSL connection--no MAC, no laptop, no iPhone or blackberry, no flat screen TV. Yep, I'm "Bingo's" caveman grandson.

I can only imagine what the future holds for digital memory: storage, access, and durability. Schonberger accepts the risk to privacy, but assumes, through several different means, that the access to--and excess of--digital memory will be a self-restraining or self-correcting phenomenon. I'm not so hopeful. Present influences play a much larger role in determining what is remembered than what actually happened in the past. While we are constantly forgetting and reconstructing elements of our past, others employing digital remembering can access the unreconstructed facts.

Thus, as the past we remember is constantly if ever so slightly changing and evolving, the past captured in digital memory is constant, frozen in time. Likely these two visions will clash. He'll be gone. That picture in my home will not clash with his blog that may have blasted his baseball career after a particularly bad game performance; it won't clash with a fan's Flikr picture of him missing a throw to first base; it won't clash with several YouTube videos of him striking out; it won't clash with a fan's forum discussing a poor hitting streak; it won't clash with a Vimeo taking a quote out of context; it won't clash with a Twitter post about his removal from next game's batting line-up because he missed practice.

His past is analogue and mostly protected. His history is my family's collective memory and that photo on my wall. The photo shows gramps as a superstar, and there's no digital information that will contradict that. First, external memory may act as a memory cue, causing us to recall events we thought we had forgotten.

If human forgetting is at least in part a constructive process of filtering information based on relevance, a recall triggered by digital memory of an event that our brain has 'forgotten' may undermine human reasoning. Second, comprehensive digital memory may exacerbate the human difficulty of putting past events in proper temporal sequence. Third, digital remembering may confront us with too much of our past and thus impede our ability to decide and act in time, as well as to learn. The fourth danger is that when confronted with digital memory that conflicts with our human recollection of events, we may lose trust in our own remembering.

Whore, drunkard, unemployed, misquoted, slandered and slanderer, these are event snapshots that will be translated anew every time they're viewed, especially 70 years hence, on MyFaceYouTwitFlikr. Nothing in context; open to judgement. Yeah, yeah, man, we got it, it's social media and we know the rules.

We've learned not to talk to strangers and film ourselves having sex. Do you? Do you know the rules when you gesture to your great-grandkids telling stories with your knobby, weathered ninety year old hands? The words I use in this review will intractably be part of my profile forever. And yet, I can't stop. I can no more stop using the media at my disposal than my grandfather could stop his dugout picture from being snapped.

So, I pick up Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age to see if there's some hope for future constraint, for a digital exit, to enjoy the privacy my grandfather has in burying his memories behind a picture. Schonberger provides options along 3 lines, actions by individuals, by laws, and by technology. Bottom line up front, this stuff scares me. It's going to get a whole lot more intrusive, comprehensive, and egregious before it gets worked out between people, technology, globalism, and the State.

It won't happen, but in I'd like part of me rolled up seamlessly in a picture, probably the one from Alaska when I volunteered for the Forest Service and bivouacked deep in the maws of a coniferous forest rebuilding trails gullied out by avalanche. I want my kid's grandkids to see the full head of hair I had at 24 and my crystal smile at the genesis of my dreams.

Yeah, they'll have this post Hey kids!! That's okay. They can do that. It's part of the epoch in which I live. But I'm drawn back to that picture of my grandfather, and when I look as intensely as I can into the aura dabbled around his jersey, and about his hands comfortably gripping the base of a bat, and into his dark Polish eyes, I wonder which way it was meant to be. Should a man's life be the accumulation of every interaction he's made with government, every receipt of commerce, every keystroke on the internet, every pixel of surveillance footage?

Or should some of that privacy be relegated to a few heirlooms, some icons, and a postcard from Bavaria, ? I don't know. New word: panopticon View all 24 comments. Oct 02, amy rated it liked it. Slip to the table on p. Proposes expiration dates for information as a way to reintroduce forgetting without necessarily addressing power imbalances or other privacy challenges.

An interesting idea whose preservation implications are underdeveloped at least in this book - haven't looked into anyone responding to this work. Again, people are probably writing about this. Nov 25, Farhana rated it did not like it Shelves: science. The worst of its kind. Aug 22, Phoenix rated it really liked it Shelves: ethics , technology. Where Everybody Knows Your Name In an increasingly digital age where the relative cost of storage has dropped rapidly, becoming less expensive than paper circa , VKM's intriguing monograph focuses on the issue of personal reputation management and whether it is desirable or practical to assert the right to control what others publish or share about us.

Positive information may be an asset, but can also lead to a loss of privacy and personal security, whereas negative information or an unfair, Where Everybody Knows Your Name In an increasingly digital age where the relative cost of storage has dropped rapidly, becoming less expensive than paper circa , VKM's intriguing monograph focuses on the issue of personal reputation management and whether it is desirable or practical to assert the right to control what others publish or share about us.

Positive information may be an asset, but can also lead to a loss of privacy and personal security, whereas negative information or an unfair, inaccurate or dishonest portrayal may result in lost employment, freedom of choice and personal relationships. Additionally where others may know more about us than we realize, this may give them an unfair manipulative advantage, and shape our behaviour in ways that we might not otherwise desire.

What ownership should one have over personal information collected by others that is is also part of their life experience. Can we trust governments or corporations to be benevolent or continue to be benevolent with personal information. To what extent can property rights be extended to information. VKM does propose a number of remedies, most of which he recognizes as being imperfect.

At one end of the scale is digital abstinence, not completely doable inasmuch as others may take and tag pictures and data about us. Another is a form of DRM where all information about us is tagged so that we can retrieve and obsess over it, and legally contest the accuracy and use, or digital aging so that material about us is automatically forgotten after a period of time.

He also notes that we may have lost the option of previous generations - exit, that is leaving one society for another town and starting all over again.

21: Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger, Author of "Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age"

With the theme of Les Miserables in mind - could Jean Val-Jean have become the mayor of Montreiul if the French Government had been able to digitally track him? Taking Delete's scenario further, the amount of collected data may so vast that in order to make it meaningful to ourselves and others we may need digital agents just to keep track and manage our online personas. An excellent starting point for ethical debate and a great choice for a book club or school discussion from middle school on up.

May 03, Jennifer Henry rated it it was amazing Shelves: non-fiction. I am reading this book in and this book was written in Technologically we have moved far beyond the references in this book, and it is a bit dated in that respect. However the topic is more relevant than ever, especially in the age of social media and our willingness to pour our personal information into these platforms and maintain digital records of our lives. The book does provide some thought-provoking arguments in favor of being in charge of our digital footprint with the author I am reading this book in and this book was written in The book does provide some thought-provoking arguments in favor of being in charge of our digital footprint with the author arguing that our ability to have this easily accessible digital footprint at our fingertips all the time hinders our ability to naturally forget portions of our life, as we're biologically designed to do.

This inability to forget makes it difficult for us to make objective decisions and accept the condition that humans evolve and change. This digital footprints are not forgotten and seemingly innocent events from 20, 30, even 50 years ago can come back to haunt us, affecting everything from our ability to travel to our ability to maintain employment and maintain healthy relationships.

The author argues that humans are designed quite on purpose to be forgetful, that we commit to memory those things that are most necessary for our survival, such as the muscle memory of riding a bike, remembering how to climb or build a fire. The author proposes rather than becoming a luddite or engage in digital abstinence we learn to control our digital footprint, not only in terms of what information we give to third parties, and what information we post online, but also issues like determining how long to keep documents and photos on our home computers.

The solution proposed is to not fear creating in the digital universe, but to also set expiration dates for elements of our digital lives. This book has certainly given me pause. I'm a librarian and my first thought is always to archive everything. Sometimes just because you can, doesn't mean you should. How many bad memories have I carried around with me in vivid detail because I have an archive of email and chat sessions and online documents.

I sense some purging in my future. Jan 13, Musca rated it liked it Shelves: information-technology. Through the developing of technology, digital collective memory can be stored timelessly, possibly used to replace the individual memory for bureaucratic profits, which is another form of information asymmetry. Oct 11, Philip Mann rated it liked it. The premise of this book lured me in. In this digital age we are now faced with never forgetting any, an important human trait.

Unfortunately a lot of this book went off on tangents some interesting tangents mind you and as such really never fully hit the mark for me. Sep 13, Sarah rated it did not like it Shelves: humans. Very textbook-ish.

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Now in chapter two I'll talk about this other thing Mar 13, Nilendu Misra rated it really liked it. Before digital age, remembering was MORE expensive than forgetting. Not anymore.

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This book diligently probes the, often counterintuitive, ramifications of that. Insightful and incisive. This book is not going to be to everyone's liking because it divides into two distinct section. In the beginning, the book deals with large, abstract ideas about human history and memory. The author argues that in the analog world, forgetting was the norm and remembering was hard because it was difficult to store information in an easily accessible and permanent form.

The author's discussion here is fascinating, as he points out how analog information slowly decays as it is copied think of the This book is not going to be to everyone's liking because it divides into two distinct section. The author's discussion here is fascinating, as he points out how analog information slowly decays as it is copied think of the hiss in a cassette recording of a previous cassette tape or the blurriness of a mimeograph of a mimeograph , the medium for storage disintegrates over time, and information in these forms is hard to index.

By contrast, in the digital realm remembering becomes the default because digital information is easy to back up and cheap to store. In addition, deleting digital information requires effort: As anybody who has let a huge electronic photo library build realizes, it takes time to go through all those photos and decide which ones to keep.

Viktor Mayer-Schönberger, Delete: the virtue of forgetting in the digital age

Forgetting is no longer effortless. Mayer-Schonberger then argues that there are serious social problems associated with this change that most people have failed to fully understand. Perhaps his largest concern is that perfect digital memory will freeze how someone is perceived because a perfect record of a person's past deeds or misdeeds will create an illusion that we know the person's character and thereby deny the reality that people change over time. He also believes that perfect memory will overwhelm us with meaningless data that will make it hard to decide how to act.

He also points out that some information is more easily digitized than others, so the digital record is incomplete and will distort our decision-making when we assume its comprehensiveness. Here I thought he missed an opportunity to talk about the general trend toward quantitative analysis at the expense of qualitative analysis. These two trends--quantitative analysis and the rise of digital computing and digital memory--obviously are mutually reinforcing.

I found the first part of the book to be a fascinating and insightful, if also unsettling, read. Perhaps because of my background in philosophy, I enjoyed his big-picture cultural analysis. The second part of the book is rather different. Here he comes back to Earth and looks at some proposed solutions, ultimately favoring a modest and speculative proposal for expiration dates for digital records. This part of the book is thematically related to the first but gets deeper in the weeds than many readers might be expecting after the 30,foot analysis of the first part of the book.

This part of the book is probably of interest to a narrower group of readers and in some ways seems more targeted to academics or professionals in the field than to a general readership, unlike the first part of the book that could appeal to anyone interested in culture and history. Mayer-Schonberger's writing is exceptionally clear and well-organized but can be repetitive.

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Whether that is a good thing depends upon how you're reading the book. If you're tackling it over a long period of time or are listening with distractions to the audio book, the repetitions and reminders of what has come before are useful, but if you are reading it in a couple of sittings, you might prefer a leaner style. By the way, I "read" this book mostly be listening to the audiobook, which has excellent narration.

Overall, I liked the book and found it gave me a new lens for thinking about the increasing prominence of computers in society. Feb 28, Hannah rated it liked it. Interesting, if occasionally long winded, read for those interested in the origins of the right to be forgotten. Jul 02, Margaret Heller rated it it was ok Shelves: technology , media-studies. I like the idea of this book, but I didn't like reading it. His argument is that by keeping everything that we've done online that we risk two things: first, that adolescent foibles and drunken late nights will be held against us potentially forever, and second that to forget makes us in some way more human and we have to retain that.

To be honest I skimmed almost everything regarding the second argument and so may be stating it poorly. While it is in fact the case that it's easier to find out pe I like the idea of this book, but I didn't like reading it. While it is in fact the case that it's easier to find out people's shady secrets when you can find them online, I don't think this has changed society in any fundamental way.

All human cultures have some sort of taboos that if people break they try to keep it quiet. Modern American culture doesn't have the same sort of shame culture that Ancient Rome, Victorian England, etc. I am sure I am wrong, but most cases of blackmail are for criminal offenses, not drinking pictures or sexual escapades.


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  • Now that DADA has been lifted this will probably take care of a lot of one of the remaining huge incentives to keep sexuality quiet--not that this doesn't exist in a hundred other little ways in other arenas. Either way, there are things that people want to keep secret for sure, but a lot of other things that just aren't a big deal for other people to know.

    But I digress. It is well known by now that before job hunting you better clean up your digital image. I don't see that as a problem. You can easily live a private life about which your employers know nothing, digitally or physically. The major issues arise when it comes to the intersection of personal and professional--what if you use your social media accounts for work purposes, for instance? Standards for institutional social media are changing, partly due to these sorts of conflicts.

    Some organizations push for more open communication, some shut it down completely. He proposes some solutions to these problems such as digital abstinence and expiration dates for information. They are already technically possible, but I didn't buy his argument that it was necessary to even worry about the problem.

    There have been a number of books on this topic lately, and this is just not the best treatment of it. View all 3 comments. Feb 27, Kevin rated it liked it Shelves: non-fiction , science , technology , mind-brain-consciousness. Do we know what we're doing to our future selves by saving a permanent record of our digital memories, conversations and information to hard drives and the internet?

    Is it even our own choice to do so anymore? The author brings up some provocative ideas- about the digital age bringing a significant change to how we use 'external storage devices' books being an older form to extend our own faulty animal capacities to remember.

    One scenario describes us forming our own surveillance network, not Do we know what we're doing to our future selves by saving a permanent record of our digital memories, conversations and information to hard drives and the internet? One scenario describes us forming our own surveillance network, not only in space but through time - what he calls a "temporal panopticon", based on that prison designed by Jeremy Bentham to give prisoners the feeling of being under constant surveillance, encouraging them to always keep their behaviour in check.

    Things that would have once been forgotten a drunken Facebook photo come back to haunt our future selves in ways we couldn't have predicted, so we end up self-censoring, putting on our best digital public face just in case. This sounds slightly paranoid and perhaps we must all just learn how to become more candid, or learn how to read digital material with more caution maybe cultivate a shared sense that people change over time even if their documents don't.