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out of memory

According to psychologists, every time we revisit a memory we are reconstructing it. In other words, a memory begins to fade after it’s experienced. A memory further degrades as time goes on–what could originally be told with descriptive, cinematic detail, eventually gets reduced to summarizing words and phrases.

out of memory is a digital library that reflects the way a memory deteriorates every time we revisit it. On the site, you’ll find memories contributed by friends, family, and anonymous strangers reflecting on moments that are as ordinary as eating fried chicken, waiting for an email, and laying down on grass, to really intimate and vulnerable moments of falling in love, heartbreak, coping with mental health, and turning points in life.

Like our own memory, there are limitations to this site. The memories degrade each time a user visits or refreshes the page. Over time, letters are deleted from the memory, making it slightly more difficult to read, yet still comprehensible enough. These memories are not repairable, meaning once it is complete deleted it will not be retrieved again. The site also has a finite amount of storage space of 15 of the memories at a time. In order to make room for newly uploaded memories, the oldest memories are deleted.

Once uploaded, the memory are rendered and read in two different ways:

  1. On the site: Visitors can select from the small library of constantly degrading, fragmented memories
  2. As coded poetry: The compiled original memories will be stored as an XML file and can be read here.

While developing this work, I was interested to not only see what people remember, but how they remember. Do some people remember how they felt more than what they saw or smelled? How do people denote “time”? As a precise calendar date or relative to another experience they had? How much were they willing to reveal even if they remained anonymous? To make things more interesting, I also asked friends who shared an experience together to record a memory to compare different interpretations of the same event.

This process also made me think about other ways we try to remember today that didn’t exist previously. In The Enduring Ephemeral, or the Future is a Memory, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun says our belief in digital electronic memory as “always there” has led to a crisis in historical documentation. We have grown to document and preserve our lives digitally, that I hope this site might ask us to reflect inwards, rather of outwards onto our memory objects of Instagram photos, Facebook albums, and Snapchat “memories.”

Submit a memory at out-of-memory.glitch.me. Here’s your opportunity to get something off your chest, to pause, reflect and remember.

<3 florence

p.s. special thanks to josh shi for helping me bring the site to life