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Wednesday, October 10 • 9:00am - 5:30pm
The Museum of Random Memory: A Critical Data Literacy Workshop + Exhibition

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This workshop is the first of a two-part event showcasing a social research experiment in citizen engagement in data literacy, called "Museum of Random Memory" (MoRM). MoRM is an interactive exhibition performed by (in this case) a team of researchers, students, activists, artists, computer scientists, and other “uncurators.” MoRM exemplifies the meeting point of digital and material culture with a particular focus on activism through critical pedagogy.

MoRM facilitates media, data, and digital literacy by engaging citizens about the topic of memory in the digital era. The exhibition itself can be large or small, in museums, libraries, classrooms, or at festivals. On the surface, the interactive event is a playful engagement where visitors are encouraged to donate memories to the museum’s collection and view their memories alongside other donations. Below the surface, MoRM generates critical consciousness about multiple aspects of datafication, data collection, management, and storage, big data, and corporate colonization of our personal data and memories through the seamlessness of apps and platforms on our digital devices.

At this half-day preconference, we introduce MoRM as an arts-based public effort for critical data literacy; discuss the pedagogical and conceptual underpinnings of MoRM, describe how previous exhibitions were conducted (Barcelona, Aarhus Festival of Research, Counterplay Festival in Denmark, and Il Berneto in Italy); and invite/train workshop participants to be “uncurators” with us at an exhibition later in the AoIR conference (as an experimental session). The last stage of the preconference workshop will be to visit the exhibition site and walk through last minute logistics.

MoRM has been, to date, a successful public engagement project. Organized by both longtime and new AoIR members, it is driven by the ambition to reach beyond the academy as activists and public educators. The theoretical foundations of MoRM have been formed by a confluence of multiple disciplines/areas of study, from critical pedagogy/popular education (e.g. Paulo Freire) and media literacy (e.g. Sonia Livingstone); to theories of affordances (e.g., Anne Helmond, Taina Bucher), articulation and assemblages (e.g., Jennifer Slack & Greg Wise); and platform infrastructures (e.g., Jose van Dijck). The point of MoRM is not to collect empirical data about digital culture but to disseminate the findings of the past twenty years of internet research, promoting data literacy among the public.

Let’s talk about the interactive exhibition itself: MoRM is targeted to a general audience. Using many different visual displays, verbal prompts, and the lure of ‘something is happening here,’ we engage citizens/visitors in conversation about how the use of digital media platforms and technologies impacts the shape of our future memories and cultural heritages.

The focus on 'memory' allows us to engage people in thinking about larger and more complex sociotechnical relations. The idea of ‘random memory’ gives visitors an easy access point, since the phrase is playful, sparks curiosity. As we draw visitors further into the exhibition, we get them to explore their devices to find a memory to donate. As they do so, we engage them in conversation about how they are generating and storing huge quantities of data.

The exact way that MoRM operates depends on location, scale, and target group, but the following description is representative of what happens: We tell visitors we’re collecting memories to add to our museum and invite them to participate. As they’re looking for some object, idea, or image to donate, we encourage them to sign our 30-meter Terms Of Service agreement (a long scroll hangs from the ceiling. In 4point font, it’s nearly impossible to read). Laughing alongside participants, we invite them to reflect on how we sign impossibly long and unreadable TOS. Continuing, we invite them to tell the story behind the donation, either on paper or through our online interface. They are invited to talk further with ‘uninterpreters.’

In previous iterations of MoRM, we have found that digital, media, or data literacy emerges as we involve participants in conversation, asking questions such as: What is the process of remembering and forgetting in the digital age? How are memories archived for us by digital platforms like Facebook and Google? Could we be more critical and conscious of how our future heritage is being created, not only by us but by many automated features of new tech? 100 years from now, what will archaeologists find to teach them about what happened back in 2017? What would we like them to find? How can we use everyday memory-making practices to consider possible socio-technical futures?

MoRM is part of a Danish Research Foundation funded grant led by Annette Markham. The central team includes social media researchers, artists, museum curators, filmmakers, and activists.

FYI: We will execute the necessary logistics for the exhibition in advance of AoIR, with the help of AoIR members at Concordia University and elsewhere. We are working to secure an exhibition space nearby the conference location that will host the AoIR attendees. We would like to offer the interactive exhibition as an evening event for AoIR, separate from the conference dinner or opening reception, possibly prior to or after one of the keynotes.

Wednesday October 10, 2018 9:00am - 5:30pm EDT
Sheraton - Salon 4

Attendees (6)