Chapter 2 (Draft) Second order memory

Second order memory

Electronic or audio-visual ‘lieux de memoire’ (sites of memory) have
created a kind of second order memory system that is fast becoming
a second order reality. (Grainge, 2018: 225)

This is an interesting statement a slight deviation from the prosthetic memory argument, but somewhat aligned, the idea of a second order memory system.

One individual with two memories, one real memory one not, possibly prosthetic this suggests that such an individual would also have dual identities too. When considering films with brainwashing as a central theme, false memories are imprinted into the protagonist’s brain through the use of audio and visual methods, these prosthetic memories form a ‘second order memory’ for the subject. In effect a second identity, a dual identity this second identity usually a significant departure from the protagonist’s true identity and reality.

For example, in the film Ghost in the Shell (2017) Major’s short-term memories are prosthetic, upon activation her consciousness was derived from these memories, her imprinted memories and the role as a Sector 9 operative dominates her life and creates a false identity. This false identity created by the scientists to weaponize her, to use her abilities to uphold the law against terrorists, just like the ones that caused the drowning of her parents and almost her own death. Gradually her real memories (her genetic memory) and identity leak through the prosthetic memory imprint, her second order memories revealed in flashbacks up to now begin to take over. Her second order memories become first order memories as the memory leak takes over and Major realises her life since actuation as a cyborg is a lie.

This argument offers possibilities to expand the terminology for this type of memory in films. I would suggest that prosthetic memories are interchangeable with false memories in this case but with the caveat that not all prosthetic memories are false memories. When the protagonist is imprinted with false memories then as Radstone argues the link between false and prosthetic memories can be argued.

In problematising oppositions between authentic and false memories, and between real and virtual experience, theories of cinema and prosthetic memory usher in a world in which prosthetic memories can enhance understanding of others . . . “ (Radstone and Schwarz, 2016: 355)


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