Research: The struggle for a narrow topic.

I never imagined that I would struggle so much trying to figure out a topic for my research paper this quarter.  Part of the problem is that I am interested in many things, and it is hard to narrow it down to one small topic.  The other part of the problem is that some of my ideas are so abstract, that I can’t seem to find any references to research from.  I’ve spent the last 3 days researching ideas and topics and reading articles on various things.  I’m hoping that writing out some of my ideas here in this post will spark some sort of “ah ha!” moment.  Also, if any of you quiet readers would like to put your 2 cents in…PLEASE, feel free to comment.

This is my collection of words: trace, time, memory, simulacrum, residue, death, mortality, mapping mortality, nonlinear, collective memory,  photo-montage, erasure, collage, palimpsests, pastiche, pentimento,  and shadow.

I wrote down many questions for possible topics, but they all seemed to lead to these two ideas:
How has residual and collective memory changed in our personal history?  What kind of trace will we leave behind for our future families?

Can a trace of something be a sign of the same thing?  Is it too far removed from its original source?

I think I’m leaning toward the first idea.  I am interested in how people have memorialized their family and friends through history, and this is a topic that I feel I could find information on.  It certainly has changed over the years, especially in medium:  painting, photography, video, etc.  We all have our different ways of remembering someone: a picture, an object, a letter, an e-mail.  The way we have been taught to discard and constantly buy new, makes me wonder if we will leave as much a trace of personal history behind as our ancestors did.  We live in a world of digital pictures.  I don’t know about you, but I vary rarely print out my digital pictures.  If I were to die, will my family take the time to go through my computer and find all the pictures I have stored?  What about all the pictures stored in e-mails from friends and family?  Is our pictorial family history going to be lost forever in the information age?  It will be if we don’t make a conscious effort to document and store the information in way that is easily accessible to others.  However, even this can not be guaranteed.  Another thing we must consider, is the hardware could change too.  We could have a floppy disk from 10 years ago, with family pictures on it from grandma, and no way to view them.  So I guess the lesson here is be sure to print out those good family photographs for generations to come.  However, even then, it is not so simple.  They must be printed on good paper, preferably acid free, with ink that doesn’t fade easily.  My how things have become so complicated, yet seeming so easy!  (no pun intended. 😉


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5 Comments

Filed under Inspiration, Memory, Photo, Trace, Uncategorized

5 responses to “Research: The struggle for a narrow topic.

  1. dfirst

    Here is a review of “Archive Fever: Uses of the Document in Contemporary Art” by Holland Cotter, that deals with a few of the ideas you are interested in:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/18/arts/design/18arch.html?ex=135

  2. karinrebekah

    Ahh, the struggle to narrow it down. I completely understand!
    As I am re-reading over what you wrote, it seems you keep going between memory and trace. Do you see memory as idea and trace as physical (object?)? I think the link between memory and object could be really fascinating to research. Would we remember as much if we didn’t have objects (in this case photos) to remind us?
    And if so, just changing around your initial question a little: How does residual and collective memory effect our understanding of history? What role does trace/object serve in forming memory?

  3. dfirst

    Good comments, Karin. Thank you!

  4. Pingback: Inspiration « Mariacristina

  5. Not that I’m totally impressed, but this is more than I expected when I found a link on Delicious telling that the info here is quite decent. Thanks.

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