Death and Memory in the Twenty-First Century

Pitsillides, Stacey (2016) Death and Memory in the Twenty-First Century. In: Memory in the Twenty-First Century. Palgrave, pp. 113-118. ISBN 9781137520579

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Technology has always played a key role in holding onto some of the precious experiences we collect over our relatively short lives, in order to pass them on to the next generation. This can even be linked to communication practices which pre-date language. The connection between external communal memory and symbolic meaning may even have already existed as a practice during Neanderthal times. This was enacted through the shaping or engraving of found objects, like shells. Over time these non-functional or ornamental objects became integrated into many day-to-day practices, signifying the connection between material culture and communication skills (D’Errico and Vanhaeren 2009). As society developed so did our understanding of materials, particularly those most close to hand, like clay. By exploring hand production through the physical transformation of a malleable material into a fixed form, we were able to form an external representation of self and to imagine more specialized uses and meanings for the objects that have been created. This was key in forming both a physical and virtual ‘memory’ of our making and indeed our presence in this world. As human beings continued to learn and develop, so did the complexity of the objects and of the systems surrounding the creation of those objects. The culture of making was also further industrialized with the growth of mass production, which meant more sectors of society could have larger collections of personal objects. However, it could be said that it was during the boom of individualism, consumerism and the development of the global village, which created mainstream capitalist democracy after the middle of the twentieth century, that the objects we chose to own and keep over the course of our lives became one of the defining characteristics expressing ‘who we are’ (Bernays 1971) and thus how we would be remembered after death.

Item Type: Book Section
Uncontrolled Keywords: Memory, Material Culture, Death, Digital, Archive
Subjects: C800 Psychology
W200 Design studies
Department: Faculties > Arts, Design and Social Sciences > Design
Depositing User: Paul Burns
Date Deposited: 23 Sep 2019 15:37
Last Modified: 10 Oct 2019 15:01

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