arebyte is pleased to present forgetting.online, an online project by Shinji Toya using the Newhive platform, exhibited on storage-un.it: an online and physical project space run by arebyte. During the residency, Toya will be producing and sharing outcomes of an ongoing research period as well as designs for a website on Newhive (http://newhive.com/shinjitoya/forgetting-online) and Storage-un.it.
The project will aim at creating a website where the audience are encouraged to forget, whilst learning about the idea of forgetting. forgetting.online explores the relationship between website art and the collective and socially-engaged form of digital forgetting. It adapts the myth of Lethe: the underworld river of forgetfulness from the Greek mythology. forgetting.online is the title of the project as well as the domain name of the website artwork that will be built and implemented after the residency.
During the residency period, Toya will research the ideas and discourses of forgetting, and taking notes of sources from various different fields such as sociology, philosophy, art and science. The artist will also be developing the interface designs, narrative and operation of the website in correspondence with the research processes. The research notes will be shared and accessible to online visitors throughout the residency period.
forgetting.online aims to seek possible ways to counteract an unwelcome feature of today’s digital memory. Many, if not all, of the contemporary digital media we use daily are programmed to remember every activity and movement performed by us. The algorithms of these devices often keep remembering the digital traces of the actions, unless we instruct differently; even then it’s mostly likely stored in another way. Unlike humans and analogue media, digital algorithms never forget naturally (without humans instructing them to do so), and the memory can potentially live forever. Digital media is capable of duplicating memories without any information loss, and the memories can proliferate once the data is online and public, and becomes outside of control and authority in terms of erasure or un-disclosure of the memory.
This kind of “immortal memory”, as Mayer-Schonberger, A professor on Internet Governance and Regulation at University of Oxford put it, can return and haunt its author when he or she forgets (such as a Facebook post showing pictures of one going wild at a party, or a politician’s tweets that could be considered inappropriate). When the Internet does not forget, sometimes society does not forget either. We may need more technology that is programmed to forget, as Mayer-Schonberger claims.
What can website art do in relation to the immortal digital memory? Firstly, the website will be designed to store texts and images associated with unpleasant memories posted by the users. These memory-posts will be available to view by other users and will slowly become more and more fragmented, until they will eventually be erased as the viewing count increases.
Ultimately, forgetting.online aims to understand whether the memory can be forgotten using digital means.