Our Collective Memory

Taken globally, the set of traces that we leave in the world does without doubt add up to something. It is through operations on sets of traces that I understand an event that I take part in. Tolstoy wrote about the foot soldier in the Napoleonic wars. The soldier he describes cannot have the experience of the war he is waging nor the battle he is fighting because the only “global” traces of the war are inscriptions—notably, maps and statistics. There is no scalable observation that moves from “I was in a copse hiding behind a tree and was terribly confused” to “I took part in Napoleon’s bold attack on Uvarov’s flank.” In this case, where is the “experience” of the war? When we experience a war, we rely on the aggregations of other experience to ground and shape our experience. In general, we use scientific representational forms to fashion our experience—notably, over the past 150 years, statistical analysis has acted as a proxy for collective memory.


No one soldier experiences a War. They experience details from their microcosm encounter with the war. The war itself is a collective memory experienced only in history books.

Folksonomies: history memory emergence experience

/society/unrest and war (0.761314)
/health and fitness/disorders/mental disorder/a.d.d. (0.353674)
/science/social science/history (0.307640)

collective memory (0.953476 (negative:-0.585506)), scientific representational forms (0.809133 (neutral:0.000000)), war (0.769621 (negative:-0.415438)), microcosm encounter (0.688252 (neutral:0.000000)), foot soldier (0.671268 (negative:-0.276912)), history books (0.647192 (neutral:0.000000)), Napoleonic wars (0.646059 (negative:-0.276912)), scalable observation (0.638593 (negative:-0.434946)), bold attack (0.633332 (neutral:0.000000)), Uvarov’s flank. (0.620295 (neutral:0.000000)), statistical analysis (0.620129 (neutral:0.000000)), traces (0.613738 (negative:-0.355607)), experience (0.512717 (negative:-0.260827)), copse (0.472490 (negative:-0.564669)), aggregations (0.469921 (positive:0.248502)), Tolstoy (0.461876 (negative:-0.276912)), doubt (0.457028 (neutral:0.000000)), proxy (0.447115 (neutral:0.000000)), details (0.447098 (neutral:0.000000)), set (0.446062 (neutral:0.000000)), world (0.445883 (neutral:0.000000)), operations (0.445145 (neutral:0.000000)), sets (0.445101 (neutral:0.000000)), event (0.444946 (neutral:0.000000)), battle (0.442792 (negative:-0.509328)), maps (0.442428 (neutral:0.000000)), statistics (0.442385 (neutral:0.000000))

Tolstoy:Person (0.884810 (negative:-0.276912)), 150 years:Quantity (0.884810 (neutral:0.000000))

Napoleonic Wars (0.947902): dbpedia | freebase | yago
Napoleon I (0.906751): dbpedia
Scientific method (0.856189): dbpedia | freebase
Philosophy of science (0.847433): dbpedia | freebase
Experience (0.822692): dbpedia | freebase
English-language films (0.809471): dbpedia
War (0.779394): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Knowledge (0.763419): dbpedia | freebase

 The Past and the Internet
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book Chapter:  Bowker, Geoffrey C. (2007), The Past and the Internet, Retrieved on 2013-06-29
Folksonomies: information post modernism