Memory Traces

Freud illustrates his depiction of memory traces through the use of an analogy to a wax slab. Similar to memory, the slab “provides not only a receptive surface that can be used over and over again, like a slate, but also permanent traces of what has been written.” Hence, even when erased, the notes leave a slightly visible impression, similar to memory traces, which are learned bits of memory which fade into our subconscious but can be recalled when of use. The concept of traces would be useful for the media collection of Project 2 because the the visible and the invisible deals with our subconscious memory’s ability to connect objects. A tangible, or visible, object can be representative of a larger context, such as Super Bowl LI MVP ring being symbolic of Tom Brady’s dominance and the decade long reign of the New England Patriots. In connecting the visible and the invisible, we subconsciously pull from our collected knowledge in order to draw conclusions about related items. Thus, the use of memory traces would have been quite useful in understanding our correlation to the media practices discussed in Project 2. 

One trace I experience in my everyday life is the faded memory of my AP Chemistry class of junior year in high school. I do not explicitly remember the lessons and concepts taught to me during the class because I did not practice them repeatedly; therefore, they were not completely ingrained in my conscious memory and somewhat lost in translation. However, these traces of AP Chemistry knowledge have resurfaced in my Chemistry 1A course this quarter. In the class we touch on topics I have already learned, allowing my brain to recall information that helps me succeed in the course. Bits and pieces of concepts reemerge from my subliminal memory in order to aid in my comprehension of topics taught to me in class, thereby representing Freud’s depiction of memory traces. 

Freud relates the wax slab and our memory by comparing the “appearance and disappearance of the writing with the flickering-up and passing-away of consciousness in the process of perception.” Thus, one group of objects that relate to schooling and attention and illustrate Freud’s concept is the learning of multiplication and division tables in elementary school. Although we do not constantly use these tables, they are always in the back of our consciousness, ready for recall if necessary. If we need to calculate a tip or use ratios in cooking we can draw upon our collective memory traces, causing the tables to reappear for our benefit. The writing on the wax slab, or the memory of multiplication and division tables, will not always be present but can be extracted when of use to us, thereby illustrating memory traces in the context of Project 3. 

I am curious as to Freud’s thoughts on the persistence of memory and the forgetfulness curve. That is, how long does it take these memories and thoughts to be removed from the Mystic Pad, and what other factors contribute to their removal?

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