To Remember and Forget: Memory and Machine


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This class is offered at NYU ITP on Fall of 2014.

What happens in our brain when we remember and when we forget something? How is our sense of memory transforming living with computational technology in daily life? How do we rely on the mobile devices to assist our short term memory and to create permanent storage?

Memory has always been interest to artists and scientists. Writers such as Marcel Proust and Walter Benjamin explored memory mechanism through narrative and metaphor. Freud, originally trained as a neurologist, developed foundation for modern psychoanalysis.

Neuroplasticity means brain’s ability to change and adapat as a result of experience. Placticity in synapses is the core mechanism that enable human memory. We become conscious by remembering things past and anticipating things to come.

Revolutionary developments in computer science and neuroscience around the 1960s occurred simultaneously. Recognition of Cybernetics and Artificial Intelligence, and sometimes its misunderstanding, continues to inspire the notions of thinking and feeling machines in popular culture. Progress in neuroscience and understanding of human memory had less apparent effect in the realm of art and culture until recently.

This class is an artistic exploration of the connection between neural plasticity and computability. Each class will begin with a lecture on memory and technical inventions, as well as history of disciplines and work of art and literature. The class will explore low level and high level approach to plasticity and computability through reading and demonstration. In class activity will include group discussion and student presentation.

Over seven weeks period, students will create two prototypes accompanied by short writing about human memory and technology, first one will be a system to help them remember and the second one will be a device to help them forget. Students are expected to bring in their skills in programming and physical computing to realize their projects.