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High on Technology Low on Memory Cultural Crisis in Dark City and the Matrix

High on Technology Low on Memory Cultural Crisis in Dark City and the Matrix

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Published by: Zavier Mainyu on Jan 06, 2013
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High on Technology; Low on Memory: Cultural Crisis in DarkCity and The Matrix
Blackmore, Tim.
Canadian Review of American Studies, Volume 34, Number 1, 2004,pp. 13-54 (Article)
Published by University of Toronto Press
DOI: 10.1353/crv.2004.0002 
For additional information about this article
Access Provided by Royal Holloway, University of London at 01/06/13 10:17AM GMT
 
© Canadian Review of American Studies/Revue canadienne d’études américaines
34, no. 1, 2004
High on Technology — Low on Memory: CulturalCrisis in
Dark City 
and
The Matrix 
Tim Blackmore
Satisfied that the sequence of men led to nothing and that the sequence of their society could lead no further, while the mere sequence of time was arti- ficial, and the sequence of thought was chaos, he turned at last to thesequence of force; and thus it happened that, after ten years’ pursuit, he found himself lying in the Gallery of Machines at the Great Exposition of 1900, with his historical neck broken by the sudden irruption of forcestotally new.
 — 
 Henry Adams,
The Education of Henry Adams
We have lingered in the chambers of the seaBy sea-girls wreathed with seaweed red and brownTill human voices wake us, and we drown.
 — 
T. S. Eliot, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”
Sluicing down our throats, washing through our minds (Eliot’schambers of the sea), the culture’s dataflow surges into usmomently, flushing out what we might have remembered, with theoutput from the socius’ memory factory. The deciphering of history,a gratingly slow process of negotiation and disagreement, isreplaced by a media blitz on events. All we want to know aboutmassive cultural memory haemorrhages like the
Shoah
and D-Daycan be squeezed into three-hour media bursts, convincing becauseof their technical brilliance, their ability to elicit emotions and to cre-ate in the viewer the conviction that the truth has been determinedand can now be shelved—we are at last done with those crises. What
 
   C  a  n  a   d   i  a  n   R  e  v   i  e  w  o   f   A  m  e  r   i  c  a  n   S  t  u   d   i  e  s   3   4   (   2   0   0   4   )
14
streams out with the dataflow are thoughts about who we’ve beenand wanted to be, as a culture, as a society, as a people, in the face of problems of technology, faith, and memory. Anxious for optimalthroughput, obeying the urgent pressure of the machine to upgradeto higher processor speeds with greater RAM, we have left ourselveslittle time to reflect, even less to reconsider, and instead leap fromevent to event, frantically memorializing (if not remembering) whatthe past means—a world war, the death of a celebrity, or the deathof the child of a revered president all carry the same valence.
1
Around us is the texture of memories, real and prosthetic, producedfor us, by us. We have turned our memory devices (in the industrial-ized world—television, film, video, the Web) into answeringmachines that, on demand, spool out rote solutions to the ontologi-cal, epistemological, and existential issues that produce life’s dread.At the end of the twentieth century, story-telling, especially film,was marked by a confluence of technology, religion, trauma, andforgetfulness: The historical revisionism and high-end computergraphics of 
Forrest Gump
(1994) led to other films, like
The Matrix
(1999), a religious story designed to assuage our anxieties about theentangling qualities of technology’s web.Since the destruction of the World Trade Center, we have been inun-dated with memorials and tributes—a tide of memory-related mate-rials, albums, souvenirs, and even beacons of light—all anodynes of cultural forgetfulness. Why have I chosen
The Matrix
(1999) and
Dark City
(1998) and not other films? John Sayles has had an aston-ishing career recording the creation of memory: the way it shifts,reforms, and is retold. Whether recounting the story of the Kentuckycoal wars (
 Matewan
); of slavery (
Brother from
 
 Another Planet
); of thecreation of the West (
Lonestar
), the North (
Limbo
), the South (
PassionFish
), or the Southeast (
Sunshine State
); or exploring a mythical placeof violence and redemption (
 Men with Guns
); Sayles has sketched, inluminous outlines and close detail, the pressures that act to producecultures, cultural groups, and their agreed-upon memories. Alterna-tively, I could turn to the myth machine in full operation: The
Indi-ana Jones
trilogy,
Forrest Gump
, or Spielberg’s own historicalnarratives (
The Color Purple
,
Amistad
,
Schindler’s List
,
Empire of theSun
). If my purpose were to deal only with technology, surely Iwould be well to take up the
Robocop
trilogy, the two extant (and oneforthcoming)
Terminator
films, or the
 Alien
series. Finally, if I wishedto discuss memory, technology, nostalgia, and
noir
, why not thatnow stock (if there is such a thing) postmodern text—
Blade Runner
?

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