The topic of memory has a long philosophical lineage, with Plato conceiving of knowledge as a kind of recollection of things already known but obscured by the contingencies of the body and its senses. Plato worried that writing, too, can act as a hindrance to memory, the written reminder leading to forgetfulness. This indeterminate aspect of memory has been picked up on by such 20th and 21st philosophers as Derrida and Stiegler. For Stiegler, the kind of exteriorisation of memory that Plato detects in writing is essential to human experience. Stiegler speaks of a ‘mnemotechnics’ where technology and memory are intimately bound together for individuals and for communities across history.
The theme of mnemotechnics becomes especially prominent in the context of digital media, with media theorists Ernst and Hansen developing the notion of the digital anarchive where disparate images accumulate excessively and redundantly, beyond any conceivable classification. In the context of this new mnemotechnics, the form that cultural memory takes today has become a crucially important area of enquiry.