June 19, 2017
The Museum of Random memory is one of many projects within the Future Making Research Consortium. It has its own site / presence / identity, but here, I highlight it as a piece of a larger emerging effort. MoRM is an outcome of experiments related to creating future memories in ‘datafied’ or digitally-saturated culture. MoRM s also an example of an emerging approach toward interpretive methods, or more specifically, how activism as research might work, practically and conceptually. MoRM is a flexible format for engaging citizens about memory practices.
MoRM is an idea. A framework for thinking about what sort of data we’re producing personally, as we go through our everyday lives:
- in cities,
- full of smart sensors (often called the Internet of Things),
- using mobile and connected devices.
As a sidenote: We are in a state of continual interaction with Other, in these ever-more-digitally-mediated lives. Some of our interactants are personal, known to us, part of friendship networks of various sizes and shapes. Other interactants are unknown to us, might be human or nonhuman, and might be hidden from us–buried in infrastructures, default settings, or aggregations of stored datasets. Through our everyday lives we build identities, leave traces of our movements, actions, and other aspects of the self. We move, play, generate, explore, and otherwise change the world around us.
How does our lived experience get collected, transformed into data, archived, combined, computed, and remediated in new forms?
MoRM is also a type of provocation for critical self-reflection and evaluation. If positioned as part of an critical pedagogy, it holds the place of a prompt. A cultural prompt, an ethnographic prompt, a generative question. In the spirit of making change through research in a proactive, even activist standpoint, we use MoRM as a starting point for conversation, critique, and consciousness raising.
How can we help citizens become more aware, critical, and engaged in building, pushing back against, or otherwise participating in the design and enactment of larger socio-technological environments.
MoRM is also an iterative design process, focused on development of strategies for how cities and museums and other heritage oriented organizations are –or more precisely, can– think about future data archiving practices. Here, key questions include, “What counts as memory?” “What counts as an archive?” “What counts as data?” “Whose memories get to count as valid or valuable?”
MoRM is also a methodological innovation. Through the iterative design of the Museum for various audiences, purposes, and situations, we are learning more about the granularity of lived experience. We are learning how to build future-oriented models for qualitative analysis. We are learning how to ask better questions.
MoRM lives within the larger umbrella (or cloud?) of Future Making. Here’s a possible way of visualizing this larger effort: