JF Ptak Science Books Quick Post
I was just thinking about the period of 1876-1900 or so and a few of the advancements in technology--telephone, motion picture--and how they changed the landscape of how people saw things in the present, and how they altered the very way in which memory worked. I've come up with a couple of questions:
1. When was the first time that a person was able to see a dead person--personally known to them--appear "alive" in a motion picture? How disorienting could that be, say, to see Uncle Henry or Mother walk past a camera at the Columbian Exposition in 1893, have Uncle or Mother die in 1894, and then see them, again, strolling, in 1899?
1.1 Would the dead-preserving daguerreotype have prepared people for the experience of the next step of seeing the dead people, this time in motion?
1.12 Daguerre's and later photographic processes would have allowed people to clearly see the faces of the Departed even decades after death. Certainly this was a triumph of technology and a change ways a hundred centuries old of remembering what dead people looked like. What did this mean to the people in the first generation of humans who were able to experience this?
1.2. I wonder if it would have been possible to operate a business--say, in 1895--that specialized in making simple one-reel motion pictures of family members and then contracting to save the movie for decades.
1.2.1 The movie house would become a Morgue. Family members or whomever could come and see these motion pictures with dead people in them. It would be like a moving, visual cemetery.
2. What did the invention of the telephone mean to people who now could with utmost ease communicate via voice without being face-to-face with the other person?
2.1 The telephone was also a great democratizer--it meant that anyone with access to a telephone could talk to anyone at the number that was dialed. In the age of introduction and more-visible class warfare, this was a novel idea.
3. What was it like for the first time people were able to experience interrupted motion? That is, for people in a cinema, or seeing a motion picture somewhere, that they could be among the first humans in the history of humans to be able to slow or stop human action as filmed in a motion picture, to see motion frame-by-frame, or (perhaps, if not too explosive) to see that action stopped, and started, at will?
3.1. And what did people think when they could see such things as interrupted and suspended motion, that they could see it all backwards? And over and over again? It had to have been an overwhelming sensation of newness and the unexpected.
3.2 It certainly meant a lot scientifically, with Marey instituting a study of locomotion; and also for the arts, as there is really no telling what impact these sorts of images would have had on people who were read/studied by those like M. Duchamp and his Nude Descending, or to the creation of alternative narratives in literature.
How did these inventions alter the way in which we remembered things, and how we remembered them?
If we fast forward (!) to the present, what might it mean to the way our memory works if we can commit so much of what we come into contact with to the cloudy intertubes? Obviously we today come into contact with x-orders of magnitude more data/information than ever experienced in the course of human history (and perhaps we experience more data input than the "average" person would have experienced over a period of a collective century or centuries or _________), and so I wonder about how the brain discriminates between necessary and allocated memory?
Again, just some thinking-out-loud notes...