Ars Electronica 2013 : Notes

Ars Electronica 2013

Gerfried Stocker

The Evolution of Memory


6MB was the size of the programs written at IBM for the moonlanding (“the most complex software ever written”) and thus the equivalent of two snapshots taken by a modern smartphone.

The quantity of data that humankind has stored to memory so far (i.e. not just created but saved to some medium that makes it accessible, and yes including the clay tablets that are still around) is estimated at 2.7 zettabytes…less than 1% of this in no-digital form.2.7 zettabytes has 21 zeros on the end: connecting the sheets of standard paper needed to print it out would produce a band that could be wrapped around the world 500 times.

By 2016 there will be so many videos put online every month that it would take 6 million years to view them and the amount of data put on line in that year alon will exceed the total amount stored to date.

Nature’s perfect memory is DNA.


“ Recording” our term for registering information comes from re and cor to remind us that people believed that we preserved memories in our hearts. 

Where exactly is recollection located now??

The brain doesn’t play the role of a repository or even of consciousness itself: rather it’s the interface between the individual ad his/her environment, and memory and consciousness are constantly being created anew from the processes of this connection.”

John-Dylan Haynes Mindreading in Modern Neuroscience


Fig 2

By using and recognising mathematical pattern recognition alogrithms researchers can infer from a persons brain activity what they are thinking as brain activity which occurs with a particular thought can be defined as the thought’s ‘fingerprint’ in the brain.

Obstacles to ‘mindreading ‘include:

  • Limited precision of equipment
  • Brain activity patterns vary from person to person
  • Difficulty acertaining what a person is thinking about at a particular point in time. Complexity of thoughts unless directed.
  • Human Creativity is the biggest obstacle.
  • So many different thoughts
  • Problem solved to some extent by using similarities between thoughts

In one study we were able to predict a person’s decisions several seconds before they themselves even knew which option they were going to choose from ( Soon, Brass, Heinze an Haynes Nature Neuroscience 2008)

This might appear like “magic” but it reflects the fact that decisions can build up slowly and unconsciously in the brain.


Rodriqgo Quian Quiroga

Funes and other cases of Extraordinary Memory

p 25

“ Funes the Memorious “ tells the vicissitudes of Ireneo Funes , a peasant form Fray Bentos, who after falling off a horse and hitting his head hard recovers consciousness with the incredible skill- or perhaps curse- of remembering absolutely everything.

P 26

Jorge Luis Borges ( 1899-1986) has received universal acclaim for the depth with which he approached matters of phiosphical and scientific import in his writings. In Borges hands, the topic of infinity comes alive either as a point that contains the universe (“the Aleph”), impregnable labyrinths ( “ The Two Kings and the Two Labyrinths”), a library that is eternally repeated (“The Library of Babel”), stories that subdivide into innumerable possibilities (“ the Garden of Forking Paths”) and others.

Funes welcomes Borges p 29 by reciting in perfect Latin:

“ Nothing that has been heard can be repeated with the same words”)

References to James Joyce Ulysses, a reconstruction of a single day in Dublin.

Pliny investigates memory.


The first properly documented case of an extraordinary memory is that of Solomon Shereshevskii, studied by Russian Psychologist Alexander Luria in his book Mind of a Mnemonist: A Little Book about a vast memory, subject 5.

Shereshevskii possesses very strong synaesthesia which gave his memories richer content and made them easier to recollect.

Borges calls Funes “ a precursor to supermen, a suburban, incomplete Zarathustra”


Neitzsche – The importance of forgetting

“ Imaging the most extreme example, a human being who does not possess the power to forget, who is damned to see becoming everywhere, such a human being, would no longer believe in himself, would see everything flow apart in turbulent particles, and would lose himself in this stream of becoming…..

All action requires forgetting, just as the existence of all organic things requires not only light, but darkness as well.”

(Neitzsch, 1995)


In this essay Neitzsche refers to forgetting in a historical context, suggesting that man should not tie himself to the prejudice of History ( a fundermental requirement for the creation of his famous creation “superman”)


Helga Rohra

Dementia Exists Everywhere

P33 /34

Contributor has DWLB.( Dementia with Lewy Bodies)

A native speaker of German, wrote her text in the catalog in English because, in her own words,” I’m still as fluent as I was back when I worked as an interpreter”.

Due to her professional training as an interpreter, she has a more solid command of (written?) English than she does of her mother tongue.

Nick Goldman, Charlotte Jarvis

The DNA Chronicles


Discuss the amount of stored information and the long-term archiving of information especially as the technology required to read it only lasts a few years.



Hardwear for reading vanish.

DNA is a proven medium

Discussion of DNA

Needs cold dry dark conditions

Translating digital information

This research team showed that it is ideal for storage of digital information.

Used standard DNA synthesis and DNA sequencing to represent large quantities of human designed information.

Used standard DNA synthesis and sequencing to store and recover 5 computer files(750KB) shakespeares sonnets (text) Luther King speech (mp4) a photograph ( jpeg) Watson and Cricks seminal paper on DNA(pdf) and the code/decode file for fun ( don’t Ask!)


Charlotte Jarvis and Nick Goldman

Music of the Spheres

Eduardo Kac Genesis 1999

Joe Davis Bacterial Radio 2012

Bacterial which are constructed with silica gel embedded circuits

Jarvis 2012  Blighted by Kenning

The project bio-engineered a bacteria with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights encoded into its DNA sequence. The DNA was extracted and apples grown near The Hague, which houses the International Court of Justice, ‘contaminated’ with the synthetic DNA. These forbidden fruit were then sent to genomics laboratories around the world, which were asked to sequence the declaration and also to eat the fruit.

This discussion of biological memory reminded me of my work in Plant Breeding at the beginning of my professional life and the beginning of tissue culture and genetic manipulation.

Frank Hartmann

Paul Otlet and the Logic of the database


Paul Otlet (1868-1944)

Books and libraries unsuitable for storage of knowledge at turn of 20th century

So re-structured Documentation of information and storage the end of the book .. logic of databank- indexing a universal book that integrated all information.

Originally systematic ordering at end of 17th C- Leibniz and the Dewy decimal end of 19th C

Otlet’s Traite de documentation publishes in 1934 speculatively elaborated on how written culture could be definitively superseded by the amalgamation of all storage and transmission media on an integrayed media on an integrated systematic level that was said to be the only way to manage the documented knowledge of human kind.

… called it ”hypermedium”…..precursor WWW?

Media changed from

Print to mass production through electricirty

Keller 1843 wood pulp to reduce cost of paper to half

1886 Mergenthaler’s linotype machine

Telegragh and transportation late 1800’s

1930’s HG Wells …World Brain – cells are libraries and universities interlinked. Permanent World Enclcyodepia

Otlet also saw a universally accessible data space instead of writing space and paper and work desk replaced by an innovative device

Teilhard de Chardin’s Noosphere  following geosphere and biosphere

See also research at Princeton into Global Consciousness Project

Ideas are that computing devices not meant to express thoughts; rather for elucidating and systematizing thinking beyond metaphysical speculation.

Michael K. Buckland

Recorded is not remembered

The case of Emanuel Goldberg


Goldberg’s Statistical Machine 1933

political and personal agenda


History is not what is documented but this is most often re…..? and re-iterated

The future of recall long-term

Projecting these technologies forward, we can envisage writing evolving into the recording of everything, printing becoming the representation of everything, and telecommunication achieving simultaneous interaction

Audible experiences are First hand sources

Accounts of audible experiences are Second hand sources.


Toki Ori Ori Nasu –   Falling Records

Brian House  – Quotidian Record  


Quotidian Record is a limited edition vinyl recording that features a continuous year of my location-tracking data. Each place I visited, from home to work, from a friend’s apartment to a foreign city, is mapped to a harmonic relationship. 1 day is 1 rotation … 365 days is ~11 minutes.


As the record turns, the markings on the platter indicate both the time as it rotates through every 24 hours and the names of the cities to which I travel. The sound suggests that our habitual patterns have inherent musical qualities, and that daily rhythms might form an emergent portrait of an individual.


As physical vinyl, Quotidian Record may be collected and fetishized, connecting the value of data today with the history of popular music culture. It provides an expressive, embodied, and even nostalgic alternative to the narratives of classification and control typical of state and corporate data infrastructure.


Four Sequence/ Open Paths platform 

Me QR Codes …recording/making not ‘creating’ ? more the exhibition at Ambika 3 some years ago.. and other digital stuff.

Not Falling Records which I thought would be but is not even on video It Is very moving. 

Oliver Bimber discusses Light Field Technology and its influences.


Most digital imaging systems and processing depict in 2 dimensions.

To represent accurately you have to consider the scene’s entire light transport process.


To know the colour and the brightness of the light that’s reflected from any three dimensional point in the scene in any direction whatsoever.

A camera able to capture all that light transports (also known as the 5D plenoptic function) would be a perfect imaging system.

At the moment it is not possible to capture or reproduce this because of the enormous amount of data produced.



Reinhard Nestbacher

Cell Camera

“Scientist Reinhard Nestelbacher (AT) has come up with a truly futuristic idea for producing pictures. For The Cell Camera, he modifies human cells and cultivates them as a one-cell-thick layer. Chemicals used in cancer therapy sensitize these cells to light. Beneath a black-and-white negative illuminated by a laboratory lamp, the cells form a picture that corresponds to the negative.’

Ars Electronica website……

Much of this work is done by scientists and is clever but thre science comes first and imagery rather than extended concept??

Maybe this is why I like it and am interested but it doesn’t move me.

However it is noted in the book that the images produced can never take thew same form and the images presented at Ars depicted imaged that were ‘burned into his memory and also his cells’

The Fukishima disaster, explosion of Challenger, an oil spill…

These feel a little contived..were they really personal memories or just ‘memoravle world events’???

The whole thing feels contrived but is fascinating and makes me think back to my involvement with biological techniques and the beginnings of plant tissue culture in the 1980’s.

Also quoted is the topic discussed in one of our discussions the ‘

Modern Technology operates on the edge’

Little glitches that cause breakdown and possible catastrophe.!!!

This is echoed in the work…was that an intentional link ?

I am interested in employing technology but the tech should not be the work…..


P 90

Theresa Shubert: bodymetries

Slime -mold growing on skin.

Makes obvious the use of skin as interface for communication and connection

I like the ideas behind this and emphasis on skin as interface but not necessatilybusing similar materials.

Is this because I lack courage? Or because again I think it is too separated from what I want to elicit as emotion and human connection/

I would need to see it in the ‘flesh!’


Heather Dewy-Hagborg Stranger Visions

Not sure I like this rather forensic work?

She discusses some of the ethical implcations but I am not sure I would want her to do this on my DNA and also the samples chosen all seem to be gum or cigarete ends form particularly similar locations so are not representative of a broad sector of society.

They are not people from expensive restaurants or theatres

See review in the Huffington Post


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