I often tell the story of my driving experience in Ireland this past March, particularly the bits about adjusting to the opposite side, the random road signs and tiny (half-lane?) highways. I must have recounted these memories a dozen times, but a few days ago I had the strangest experience: as I was telling the story, the image in my head of driving along the Irish countryside was wrong somehow — I was driving on the left side of the car.
The more I thought about the trip, the more I realized that every memory had miraculously been reworked in my brain to have me driving American-style. Left-side drive, on the right side. When I got home I looked up photos from the trip and confirmed that indeed my recollection had been tampered with. Even more surprisingly, the more people I told about my memory failure, the more I realized that it’s not an anomoly of mine. Nearly everyone with a single experience of driving on the opposite side had adjusted their memories and put themselves on the wrong side of the car.
It makes sense from a technical perspective, namely that it’s easier to store memories as extensions of things we already know. Since driving on the left side of the road is a huge anomaly in my experience, it’s much easier to ignore that fact in the long run. Somehow the blending of old experiences and new has created a completely inaccurate picture. It definitely makes me think twice about trusting my mind’s eye.
To mark the beginning of the Internet + Society 2004 conference, the Kennedy School of Government cohosted an event this evening with the Berkman Center for Internet and Society on the topic of the internet in the 2004 elections. The forum consisted of two panelists, Joe Trippi, former campaign manager for the Howard Dean campaign and Michael Turk, online campaign director for the Bush-Cheney ’04 ticket. The panel was moderated by Kathleen Matthews, anchorwoman for ABC News.
The discussion was awash with utopian musings around the effect of technology on politics in the last year, but a number of interesting points emerged from the discussion. Trippi noted that the Dean campaign was largely due to the fact that supporters used technology to support the campaign in ways that the organizers had never expected. Most of all he stressed the importance of the conversation that emerged among Dean supporters, something that was not available to citizens in the 2000 election.
Turk followed suit with a similar handful of anecdotes and stories that made technology out to be a central part of the Republican success. He noted that the difference in their campaign strategy was the extent to which “viral marketing” allowed for the efficient spread of information to interested parties. Instead of relying on a centralized machine, the GOP was able to take advantage of their supporters to spread the word.
Once again overstated has lain dormant while I sought answers to some of life’s most pondered questions: will I ever graduate? If I do, what the hell comes next? How many licks does it take to get to the tootsie roll center of a tootsie pop? Which shaker does the salt go in? Are spheres the only type of bounded three-dimensional space possible that contain no holes?
I tried Google Answers. I tried fasting and I rewatched The Matrix. Without any clear resolve, this existential period has come to a close. Or rather, I’m not so distracted by the rest of my life that I can actually do more with my weblog than just delete comment spam. I’ll be attending the Internet + Society 2004 meeting starting tomorrow, so look forward to some reactionary note taking.