Lily Melendez

Weekly Response #6: Memory Traces

Considering aspects of his memory, Sigmund Freud, in “A Note Upon the ‘Mystic Writing-Pad,’ feels many events are ultimately forgotten and “the rest of which [he] carr[ies] about…is invisible” yet he can “‘reproduce’ it at any time” (Freud 1925, 175). Regarding my media collection, this idea of the power of recalling trace memories is essential in understanding the hidden, invisible meanings of the objects. Two objects I believe incorporate the rematerialization of trace memory are Disney’s World of Color and the interpretations of reading in my English classes. 

In the case of Disney’s World of Color, an observer may feel traces of nostalgia and familiarity with the Disney characters and songs being projected; thus, the observer, with his traces of memory, is able to have a more active and tangible experience with the exhibit. Personally, as a lover of Disney, I can recall past feelings and memories of watching my favorite Disney movies, and in effect, have these memories be rematerialized and stimulated as I experience the show. Freud expands on this concept of memory as one of pure subjective identification as “ a ‘permanent trace’ may lose its value…if after a time the note ceases to interest” (175). So, it is possible an observer with limited or no previous experience with Disney may not be as actively stimulated by the exhibit. This leads me to believe objects, artwork, and stories that allow subjects to feel emotionally engaged, that is they encourage a recalling or sentiment of the recipients’ own life experiences, truly activate a more symbiotic relationship between the media and the individual. 

Outside of media context, I also engage in the influence of trace memory more academically. When I read novels and poems for my AP English Literature class, I noticed how I would use past memories of notable myths, biblical stories, and fables to enhance my understanding of themes and motifs in more contemporary pieces. Authors take advantage of this aspect of memory through designing characters, archetypes, and plot with allusions to other works. In my current English class at UCSB, we are focusing on deconstructive criticism in which reading critics remain alert to traces of literary works that linger around specific material. In other words, we all bring out our own interpretations and perspectives to the discourse, and this trace is synonymous to that of Freud’s ‘wax slab of the mind.’ One question I have regards the consequences of memory devices in school. If we are only set to rely on mnemonic devices and rote techniques to understand concepts are we actively learning and able to engage in real conversations about concepts? Can using trace memory techniques be more helpful when defined by continuous practice and review of ideas?