Memory transition between communicating agents

Elena FELL


Abstract: What happens to a memory when it has been externalised and embodied but has not reached its addressee yet? A letter that has been written but has not been read, a monument before it is unveiled or a Neolithic tool buried in the ground – all these objects harbour human memories engrained in their physicality; messages intended for those who will read the letter, admire the monument and hold the tool. According to Ilyenkov’s theory of objective idealism, the conscious and wilful input encoded in all manmade objects as the ‘ideal’ has an objective existence, independent from the author, but this existence lasts only while memories are shared between communicating parties. If all human minds were absent from the world for a period of time, the ‘ideal’, or memories, would cease to exist. They would spring back to existence, however, once humans re-entered the world. Ilyenkov’s analysis of memories existing outside an individual human consciousness is informative and thorough but, following his line of thought, we would have to accept an ontological gap in the process of memory acquisition, storage and transmission. If there is a period, following memory acquisition and preceding its transmission, when memories plainly do not exist, then each time a new reader, spectator or user perceives them, he or she must create the author’s memories ex nihilo. Bergson’s theory of duration and intuition can help us to resolve this paradox.

This paper will explore the ontological characteristics of memory passage in communication taken at different stages of the process. There will be an indication of how the findings of this investigation could be applicable to concrete cases of memory transmission. In particular, this concerns intergenerational communication, technological memory, the use of digital devices and the Internet.

Keywords: Ilyenkov, memory transition, image, digital devices, intergenerational communication


Résumé : Qu'arrive-t-il à la mémoire lorsqu’elle a été extériorisée et incarnée sans encore toucher son destinataire ? Une lettre qui a été écrite mais pas encore lue, un monument avant qu'il ne soit dévoilé ou un outil du Néolithique enfoui dans le sol – tous ces objets contiennent des « mémoires humaines » incrustées dans leur physicalité ; des messages destinés à ceux qui liront la lettre, admireront le monument et tiendront l'outil… A partir de ce questionnement et en s’appuyant sur la théorie d'Ilyenkov sur l'idéalisme objectif, l’article s’intéressera aux caractéristiques ontologiques du passage de la mémoire à la communication  à différents moments du processus. Le but consiste à montrer comment s’applique-t-elle la transmission de la mémoire à des situations concrètes de communication, en particulier à la communication intergénérationnelle, à la mémoire technologique, à l'usage des dispositifs numériques et de l’Internet.

Mots-clés : Ilyenkov, transition de la mémoire, image, dispositifs numériques, communication intergénérationnelle

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On line ISSN 1775-352X
Paper ISSN 2066-5083


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