In Chandra Mukerji’s piece “Me? A Digital Humanist?,” she challenges the reader to change their perception of what it means to have physical versus conceptual forms of barrier in regards to a concept that has almost no material properties. By comparing the forms of media in the Renaissance era to the digital technologies today alongside the parallel for both of a maze or labyrinth, Mukerji’s excerpt helps to expand the ideas of where ideological concepts are limited or restricted by media.
Mukerji begins her work by describing the comparisons between digital technologies today and works and technologies from the Renaissance era, including “fortresses, infrastructures, and art” (42). By positing the similarities between the restrictive power of these two eras of technology, Mukerji prepares her argument that “memory palaces and mazes and labyrinths” are the base concepts of ideological progression today (43).
Mukerji then progresses to one of the best and most examples of an immersive experience and memory palaces: the Gardens of Versailles from the reign of the Sun King. These gardens were “microcosms where the people of France could witness the power of the state,” effectively preparing ideologies for these people that the state is strong, which are nonphysical, using materialistic goods and properties (44). Additionally, the Gardens served as a memory palace by causing “Rome [to] not [be] a lost past, but a living tradition in this” garden by setting up multiple examples of Roman architecture and such (Mukerji 45).
Mukerji closes her argument by comparing this idea of the Gardens of Versailles as a memory palace and immersive experience to the modern-day digital technologies available today. She uses two very strong examples to display each of these concepts. Soldiers are able to “refashion their memories and narratives of self, using an immersive environment, or to desensitize themselves to triggers to their memories of Iraq” utilizing a memory palace, effectively displaying the power of virtual reality as a means of combatting PTSD (Mukerji 48). In regards to an ‘educational’ maze of sorts, Mukerji refers to the modern-day game Pac-Man, which presented players with “impersonal threats that were both architectural and nonhuman, but also inhuman or extra-human” as a way to present educational opportunities to players (51).
What is the relevance of the labyrinth and mazes? She gave very clear examples of the need for PTSD help, but mazes and labyrinths that provide inhuman experiences seem useless to me.
I definitely want to hear more about the concept of a memory palace — perhaps explaining more before launching into a description of the Gardens of Versailles would have been helpful.
**Question for the Class:
** What digital technologies do you think would be helpful for soldiers with PTSD besides a memory palace?