Individual Work
ii -- in the white darkness: about [the fragility of] memory (Reiner Strasser and M.D. Coverley)

This work by Reiner Strasser, along with M.D. Coverley as a consult, is an interactive flash program that serves as a physical, more specifically, visual representation of the experience of memory, which is a very ambiguous concept, as it occurs for people who have had their memories altered or lost by Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. It is hard to describe memories in the traditional sense, meaning text, let alone attempting to describe the concept of memory as a whole. This new medium of expression allows for a more immersive experience and understanding as to what the author believes memory is, and how it works. Even the title of the work seems like it could allude to the meaning of the content, with the two “i”‘s (or eyes) coming before the “white darkness” (which is a bit of an oxymoron as well) as if the two eyes are looking towards that white darkness.

The work, which I will refer to as a story from now on, is navigated by clicking on highlighted dots that are spaced out in a uniform pattern. Strasser does a good job of giving the story an intuitive feel, as if you are accessing the memory bank of an individual from the convenience of your computer screen. Not all of the dots are clickable though. Clicking on a dot will cause the image on your screen to change in a variety of ways. What is available for you to see will be completely overlapped by a new image, or the screen you are looking at may become altered by various means such as blurring of the lines, or a smaller, thumbnail-like image appearing on the screen for you to see. All of these elements eventually fade away again so that you return to the initial screen where you can navigate to other dots.

This medium offers readers a new way of conceptualizing what it is like to deal with a mental illness that causes you to lose control of your memory. Users get the feeling of grasping at memories as they slowly fade in to view, and just as it might occur in real life for victims of these illnesses, some of the memories (represented by images) begin to fade away before they even fully come in to focus. Other memories are more distinct, spanning the entire screen and sticking around long enough to be appreciated. These images probably represent more stable memories, but just like all of the other memories available to be visited they eventually fade away. There are a few different ways to interact with the story; you can choose to view each memory sequentially in a left-to-right, top-to-bottom manner, or you can view them in a random order. A new way that I happened to stumble upon is to click on multiple memories very quickly so that multiple images flood the screen at once and cause them to take on an entirely new feel. In this style, an even further appreciation and sympathy can be felt for people who cannot control their memories to the point that they may all fire off at once, causing an inconceivable collage.

The story is able to be told in a unique manner, one that could not be related using traditional words, videos, or audio means. The fact that a doctor helped to create this simulation aids the authentic feel that you are really experiencing something from someone else’s shoes, as if your mind has suddenly woken up inside of their body, and you are now able to see exactly what they see, and maybe even feel a little bit of what they feel. Another thing to consider is the lack of a unifying quality in the story. The images have no apparent connection to one another, other than the fact that they seem to occur in a coastal region. This has the effect of leaving the reader a bit confused as to why these images appear, and not one of the millions of other images that could have been displayed. Upon further speculation, it seems possible that this effect was intentionally implemented by the author, so that the reader would get a true sense of being in the mind of an individual with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s; confused as to why these images are present in our memories, but they are present nonetheless.

Again, a reader’s navigation of the memories relies on the clicking of white dots on the home-screen, which then activates the memory on which they have clicked. The white dots themselves have no distinguishing marks from one another, so if you want to view a specific image/memory, you will need to remember which dot represents that memory, which is very similar to how our own memory functions. An interesting addition to this story would be to cause the mouse-clicks to fail at certain times, making the memory accessible only after you have clicked on the white dot ten or so times. This element is already present since some dots cannot be clicked at all, but this idea could be incorporated as well to give users a better feeling of the frustration of what it is like to struggle to remember your memories, and to remember what your connection to those memories once was.