not a remedy for memory

But the king said, “Theuth, my master of arts, to one man it is given to create the elements of an art, to another to judge the extent of harm and usefulness it will have for those who are going to employ it. And now, since you are father of written letters, your paternal goodwill has led you to pronounce the very opposite of what is their real power. The fact is that this invention will produce forgetfulness in the souls of those who have learned it because they will not need to exercise their memories, being able to rely on what is written, using the stimulus of external marks that are alien to themselves rather than, from within, their own unaided powers to call things to mind. So it’s not a remedy for memory, but for reminding, that you have discovered. And as for wisdom, you’re equipping your pupils with only a semblance of it, not with truth. Thanks to you and your invention, your pupils will be widely read without benefit of a teacher’s instruction; in consequence, they’ll entertain the delusion that they have wide knowledge, while they are, in fact, for the most part incapable of real judgment. They will also be difficult to get on with since they will be men filled with the conceit of wisdom, not men of wisdom. (274e-275b)

Plato, Phaedrus. in Jacques Derrida. Dissemination. Barbara Johnson, trans. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1981.

diagram showing

Figure 6.3. Diagram showing gold mine layout

Blackwell, A.F. (1998). Metaphor in Diagrams. Unpublished PhD Thesis, University of Cambridge.

for Munin my care is more

O’er Mithgarth Hugin and Munin both
Each day set forth to fly;
For Hugin I fear lest he come not home,
But for Munin my care is more.

Bellows, Henry Adams, trans. The Poetic Edda. American-Scandinavian Foundation, 1923. 92.

*Huginn (Old Norse for “thought”) and Muninn (“memory”) are Odin’s two raven companions who tell him everything they see and hear.

distancing mirror effects

What does a society that becomes suddenly “mistress of its own memory” do with all the distancing mirror effects that this implies? What to do—and this is what this phonographic invention teaches me—with a memory that I, as subject, can not only formulate and fix but also and above all constitute at will, a mechanical memory, infinitely extensible, practically limitless and outside of myself?

In the beginning was the word, okay. Now I can finally, and without end, reproduce, phonographically, the original situation—the one where this word supposedly was spoken (without me, for me). I can start the beginning again—start over, hence erase. Question: What is a subject whose origin is incongruously postponed?

Phonography: suppression of time, suppression of divinity, suppression of creatures! Thus have we beecome phonographically of the creative species. “God is dead,” but the living voice of the apparatus makes me equal, wretched me, to his eternity. It’s my revenge—revenge through sound.

Grivel, Charles. “The Phonograph’s Horned Mouth” in Kahn, Douglas and Gregory Whitehead, eds. Wireless Imagination: Sound, Radio, and the Avant-Garde. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1992. 37.