Tuesday, February 5, 2008

the memex, cyberspace, and the intersection of fiction, fantasy, and reality

As vile as it is to make this pop culture reference, when reading about Vannevar Bushes’ Memex and discussing it in class, recollections of a certain magical device from one of the Harry Potter books called a Pensieve (J.K. Rowling was nice enough to make the name sounds rather like the word pensive so that your 5th grade mind would be able to make a clearer connection). The Penseive was a large stone basin swirling with a silvery soup that was comprised of the memories of the owner. The whole purpose of this device was to allow the thinker to unburden his or her thoughts and free the mind to pursue other thoughts and activities. Whenever the owner wanted to revisit the thoughts, there they were in the bowl, complete 3-D representations of moments in the rememberer’s life.
The words that sparked this association for me was Bushes’ phrase about the luxury of forgetting, and how the Memex would facilitate this process. The Penseive is a creation the is located in the magical, fantastical, chimeral world J.K . Rowling creates in her novels, but it might as well be a fantasized version of the Memex, or a simplified version of Nelson’s ELF System, or an allegory for certain characteristics of the internet. Even the silvery, viscous physical substance of these memories recall the fluid and futuristic way in which we imagine the world wide web.
For the majority of us who do not know the inner workings of computer systems, the internet and cyberspace serve as our actualized versions of magical inventions and hidden, alternate realities. They serve the same function for our imaginations, but we simply call it by a different name: technology. There seems to be a pattern. Systems of categorization that allow for further expansion of the human mind beyond its normal capacity hold a fascination for human beings. What does this desire mean for our future, and what is the next way will we see it manifested in the “real world?”

No comments: