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12. The Cultural Memory System (CMS)

The Cultural Memory System (CMS) is the systematic theoretical account of those processes and structures by which the Cultural Memory CM arises and operates.

12.1. The dual perspectives of the CMS

The CMS can be viewed from two different perspectives, which are dual aspects of the same phenomenon, [437] much as wave and particle are dual aspects of the same physical phenomenon:

1. the Cultural Memory (CM) view, of the individual humans, and
2. the Cultural Pattern (CP) view, the intersubjective aspect.

12.1.1. The Cultural Memory view

ad 1.: In the Cultural Memory view, the CMS refers to those processes and structures by which personal subjective memory material is exchanged between individuals and across generations and made available on an intersubjective basis . It is the diachronic aspect of Cultural Transmission .[438] In ethnological diction, it is the emic view, and philosophically, it is based on intentionality. From the subjective viewpoint, it is that faculty by which one individual can {reference to / learn from / participate in} the memory content of (an)other individual(s), even without direct personal contact, e.g. when they live in a distant place, or in the distant past.
->:CULTURAL_MNEMO, p. 230, ->:MEMORY_PATTERN, p. 134, ->:PRELIMINARY_DEF, p. 103

The starting point for the concept of Cultural Memory are the works by Aleida and Jan Assmann (1983-1992), Cassirer (1954-1985), Yates (1989, 1990) , Connerton (1989), and Halbwachs (1985) . References on memory: Schmidt (1991), Harth (1991), Norman (1970-1982), Bergson (1919) , Heinz v. Foerster (1985: 133-172) "Gedächtnis ohne Aufzeichnung", Johnson (1991), Illich (1988: 14-28).

12.1.2. The Cultural Pattern view

ad 2.: in the Cultural Pattern view as intersubjective position, it is called the culture pattern replicator system, those processes and structures by which cultural patterns are maintained, exchanged, and transmitted in populations ( synchronic) and across generations ( diachronic). In ethnological diction, it is the etic view. The cultural pattern view is here called a morphology, in the sense that morphology is a theoretical tool for the study of pattern {maintenance / replication / perception} in the most general sense. Related material under:
->:MORPHOLOGY p. 128, ->:CULTURE_PATTERN p. 132, ->:MEMORY_PATTERN p. 134.

Douglas (1970: 11): A symbol only has meaning from its relation to other symbols in a pattern. The pattern gives the meaning. Therefore no one item in the pattern can carry meaning by itself isolated from the rest.

12.2. The basic typology of CMS: somatic and extrasomatic factors, sensory modalities

The typology of CMS has to account for the different ways and means by which CM is manifested, maintained or stored, and transmitted.

The most basic distinction is according to
1. somatic and
2. extrasomatic factors.

ad 1.: Somatic Factors are those concerning CM as an affair of the human memory, and the human body and its facilities, the nervous system, the brain, the sense organs and sensory modalities , etc. Another term used in this context is incarnat/-ed/-ion, for: factors bound in the bodily flesh . A further basic differentiation can be made into the different impressive and expressive sensory modalities available to the human body.

ad 2.: Extrasomatic Factors are those of the intersubjective domain, or of the external media, here also called the Cultural Memory Media CMM. All communication between organisms takes place through some medium. The primary medium is the body, and in performative modes, without material storage, as in dance or song, there is the physical medium of air, light, or sound, between the sender and receiver [439]. The various types of CMM can be classed according to their technical and informational properties, and along the line of the sensory modalities.
->:CMM_TYPOLOGY, p. 140

12.3. Extrasomatic factors: the typology of Cultural Memory Media (CMM)

In the most general sense, the Cultural Memory Media CMM is that aspect of the CMS that can in any way be observed from the intersubjective position, the extrasomatic aspect of the CMS . The concept of medium is further treated in Böhme-dürr (1997), Posner (1997: 228-229). More references with many types of CMM in semiotic categories: Posner (1997), and Noeth (1985).

12.3.1. Sonderforschungsbereich Literatur und Anthropologie

The research of SFB 511 (Sonderforschungsbereich Literatur und Anthropologie), Universität Konstanz, maintains a database of their research (Sfb-511 1995). The systematics of the SFB 511 is based on the conventional categorizations of literature sciences, i.e. the western logocentric-/ graphocentric vista, [440] and with this provision, its material can serve as base foundation for a more general CMM studies. The role of media systems in the cultural context is summed up by Aleida Assmann, and a condensation and translation of her article will be given here:

Assmann (1995: 348-349): In the last 20 years, a change of orientation has taken place away from the humanities (Geisteswissenschaften) towards media and culture sciences. From this new vantage point it has become apparent that the humanities themselves are based on a construction that arose in the 18th century, on ideas that were created through a singularization: Geist (mind / spirit [441]), man, history, or art... out of which were formed those new disciplines of the 19th century: history, literature, esthetics, anthropology, linguistics, art history (Kittler 1980). In place of the integrative concept Geist, there have now been substituted concepts like communication, notation systems, or in short: media. There are presently three main directions of research interested in media and the materialities of communication:
First the hard technological history of communiations, for which the name Kittler stands as representative. The salient point and provocative of this approach is that it converts literature science into an engineering science. This school is based on two other approaches that reach back into the 60's and earlier.
[Second] The older of these is the historical study of media whose first important impulses originated in the 20's and 30's that were developed further in Canada in the 50's and 60's, the Toronto school. To this school belong, among others, Harold Innis, Eric Havelock, and Marshall McLuhan. Havelock, for example, is a classicist and researcher of the "cultural revolution of the alphabet". He understood his work as a continuation of the investigations of Milman Parry in the 20's and 30's... The central thesis of this school is: cultures are defined by the capacity of their media, i.e. their recording, storage and transmission technologies. With this thesis, the focus of attention was directed towards issues of writing systems and -institutions, types of communication, transmission channels for messages, and storage technologies of knowledge. This perspective of media determination of culture that came in a time of immensely accelerated technological evolution, has not only revealed its critical impact, it has also given rise to new issues of research...
[Third] The other direction is the French post structuralistic philosophy of writing that is connected with the names of Foucault, Lacan, and especially Derrida. Here the focus is not on media and their historical forms but in the most general and fundamental sense on an insubversible materiality of writing that resists the attempts of meaning and signification.
These areas of research are to be supplemented by a history of writing which focuses, besides the evolutionary perspective, the technological history and metaphysics of writing, on the cultural examination of writing.

12.3.2. Static vs. performative

The CMM can then be classed into static and material vs. performative and dynamic ones.

The static CMM are those involving a (more or less) enduring carrier material. They are treated at ->:STATIC_CMM, p. 154

The performative CMM, also called ephemeral or dynamic, are treated at
->:DYNAMIC_CMM, p. 203

Before the introduction of technological media like film, audio recording, and computerized multimedia, the material CMM allowed only static representations. Writing is the best known and most widely used application of such static CMM. The overt and covert influences of this factor of stasis in material CMM is of prime importance for the present study .

12.3.3. Cultural Memory Technology: CMT

The Cultural Memory Technology CMT: systematic use of static material extrasomatic devices (CMM) specifically for transmitting CM. Writing is the prime Cultural Memory Technology of civilizations.

12.3.4. A table view of the main types of cultural memory media

The typology of CMM can be shown in a diagrammatic ordering according to those main categories:

I. verbal language oriented [442]
II. non-verbal language oriented


a. using markings in/on material storage, with more or less permanent material substrates, static
b. performative based on human-to-human transmission, ephemeral, and dynamic

This classification can be mapped in a table serving as a general coordinate system for overall orientation and overview. It leaves out the different sensory modalities which will be treated in the next subsection. We can diagram it in the following way:

The broken lines indicate that the categorizations cannot be made to conform to strict set-theoretical rules . The term "oral" tradition is used in quotation marks, as the term is used in the literature for many different, not only verbal, non-written transmissions . The following systematic will provide a more detailed classification.
->:SPECTRUM_CMM, p. 143

The element of ritual is drawn as to intersect the categorical ordering, as it does in real life. In common use, ritual is usually multimedial, with acted performance, and often with song, music and dance as dominant elements. Hanna (1979: 198), Aquili (1979). Discursive prosa speech, the recording of which is the main purpose of writing, is not the most important element in ritual (Staal 1986: 252). Ritual is placed partly outside the CMM ordering grid, since it transcends the categorization. It indicates primary CMS mechanisms that are deeper than what can be conveyed with the semantic content of spoken prosa language, and which will lead into areas where we cannot tread with the alphabet.

Noeth (1985: 350-351): Nonverbale Kommunikation erweist sich hier nicht als Alternative oder Ergänzung zur Sprache, sondern als ein der Sprache semiotisch überlegenes Ausdrucksmedium.

12.3.5. The general classification of the spectrum of CMM

Another display of the different categories of CMM can be made in a more detailed hierarchy mode, and by further combining the four main categories with the different sensory / somatic modalities.

12.3.6. Sensory / somatic modalities

1. Auditive ->:AUDITIVE, p. 147
2. Visual ->:VISUAL, p. 147
3. Kinesthetic ->:KINEMORPHAE, p. 205
4. Tactile ->:TACTILE, p. 147
5. Olfactory (smell) ->:SMELL, p. 149
6. Taste (gustatory) ->:TASTE, p. 151

12.3.7. Non-specific somatic modalities

7. Para- (non-) senses ->:PARA_SENSES, p. 205
8. Electro / magnetic ->:ELECTROMAGNETIC, p. 153
9. Existential ->:EXISTENTIAL_CMM, p. 205

12.3.8. Cross product of Modalities and CMM

Combined with the different modalities, we arrive at the spectrum of CMM:

1. verbal language oriented, material carrier, visual, color-insensitive
1.1. writing (phonographic, non-phonographic)
->:WRITING, p. 175, ->:WRITING_TYPOLOGY, p. 177, ->:ENCARTA_WR, p. 181
1.1.1. phonographic writing: non-alphabetic
1.1.2. phonographic writing: alphabetic
->:PHONOGRAPHIC, p. 178, ->:ENCARTA_ABC, p. 184
1.1.3. non-phonographic writing (pictographic, iconic, ideographic, logographic, etc.)
->:LOGOGRAPHIC, p. 178

2. verbal language oriented, performative, auditive
2.1. "oral" tradition
2.1.1. epic poetry, laws, prayers, oaths
2.1.2. folk tradition: fairy tales, myths, riddles, jokes, insults, swear words, spells

3. verbal language oriented, various modes
3.1. material carrier, tactile
3.1.1. Braille (Encarta: Braille), Noeth (1985: 364-365)
3.2. performative, auditive, non-vocal
3.2.1. drumming and whistle "language" (speech-surrogates) [443]
3.3. performative, visual
3.3.1. sign languages, Noeth (1985: 280-291)

4. non-language oriented, material carrier
4.1. visual color-insensitive
4.1.1. operational symbolic: mathematical, engineering [444]
4.1.2. abstract symbolic: e.g. music, and dance scripts [445]
4.1.3. geometrical, pictorial, diagrammatic, iconic, technical drawing[446]
4.1.4. non-semantic, symbolic: ornament [447]
4.2. visual color-sensitive
4.2.1. pictorial: painting
4.2.2. abstract: Inca quipu and other Amerind CMM [448]
4.3. tactile
4.3.1. craft traditions ->:CRAFT_TRADITION, p. 221
4.3.2. Inca quipu, numeric knot systems, rosary
->:QUIPU, p. 163, ->:QUIPU_MNEMOTECH, p. 173
4.4. olfactory (smell): perfumery
4.5. gustatory (taste): cooking
4.6. mixed-mode, and non-classified
4.7. media technologies, Multimedia, 4d (moving, changing) displays
4.7.1. visual media technology [449]
4.7.2. auditive media technology [450]
4.7.3. other sensory modality media technology

5. non-language oriented, performative
5.1. gestic, Noeth (1985: 339-354)
5.2. tactile ->:TACTILE, p. 147
5.2.1. massage ->:GYMNASTIC_ART, p. 220
5.2.2. torture ->:PANETICS, p. 233
5.2.3. marital (sexual) arts ->:MARITAL_ART, p. 219
5.4. kinesic: ->:KINESIC_TRADITION, p. 218
5.4.1. dance ->:DANCE, p. 218
5.4.2. martial arts ->:MARTIAL_ART, p. 218
5.4.3. marital (sexual) arts ->:MARITAL_ART, p. 219
5.4.4. gymnastics ->:GYMNASTIC_ART, p. 220
5.5. auditive: music, rhythm, drumming [451]

6. multimedial forms, ritual ->:RITUAL_PATTERN, p. 224

Ritual occurs generally in multimedial form and therefore overlaps the classifications.

[437] See also: Luhmann (1993: 292)
[438] Spengler (1980: 738-738), ->:MORPHOLOGY, p. 128
[439] ->:SYMBOL, p. 119.
[440] ->:CULTURAL_BIAS, p. 192, ->:LOGOCENTRISM, p. 197, ->:IN_EXCARNATION, p. 199
[441] For problematics of translation, see Jahoda (1992: 3), GüNther (1976: 269)
[442] S poken verbal language in this sense : as everything consisting in the production of certain patterns of sounds, which we call words that can be written down with an alphabet.
[443]Ong (1977: 92-120)
[444] Krämer (1988), (1991), (1994a), (1994b), Floyd (1992), Bolter (1990) (1991)
[445] Jeschke (1983)
[446] Emmer (1993), Williams (1979)
[447] Albarn (1974), Alexander (1977), Bain (1973), Critchlow (1976), Emmer (1993), Gombrich (1982), Jones (1987), Merne (1974), Williams (1979), Tufte (1990, 1992).
[448] Silverman (1991), Barthel (1971), Ascher (1981), Scharlau (1986: 80-94)
[449] visual and auditive media technology can of course also be used for language oriented productions, but for ease of the classification it is included here.
[450] see visual media.
[451] Noeth (1985: 390-400), Nettl (1983), (1991), Blacking (1976, 1985), Merriam (1964), Goodwin (1989), Schneider (1951-1990), Roscher (1997)
There are cases where verbal language is translated into rhythm: African drumming languages.

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