Frequent use of social media can create a “shadow self” for each of us, according to Mark Vareschi, an assistant professor of English. Our memories define who we are, he says, but Facebook, Twitter, and other online spaces leave a digital trail. Given that digital memory is more accurate than human memory and creates a permanent record of our most fleeting thoughts and opinions, does it present an even truer depiction of who we are than our own concepts of ourselves?
Vareschi created the course Frankenstein, Robocop, Big Data: Human Memory/Digital Memory to explore these types of questions. The popular class has filled up every semester since it was first offered in fall 2014. Vareschi, who specializes in 18th-century literature, designed a syllabus for the class that highlights efforts to understand the nature of identity throughout history. His current book project focuses on anonymous publication in Britain in the 18th century, and his Twitter photo features a plaque that says, “In the future, everyone will be anonymous for 15 minutes.”
What I’m reading at the moment:
Simone Browne’s Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness
David Rosen and Aaron Santesso’s The Watchman in Pieces: Surveillance, Literature, and Liberal Personhood
My assigned reading this semester includes:
Our reading and viewing list is pretty expansive. We start off with Plato, spend a good deal of time with John Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding, read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and then finish the semester off by watching the 2014 remake of Robocop.
Periodicals and publications I enjoy paging through are:
Los Angeles Review of Books, Vegetarian Times, Cook’s Illustrated, and recently Bicycling, as I have a few friends writing for the magazine now.
Preference: curl up with a good book, or plug into an e-reader:
Curl up with a good book; I find I can’t read well on screens.
My favorite place on campus to read is:
I enjoy reading in my office. I have a nice, albeit obstructed, view of the lake and a comfy chair.
The book I would read over and over again is:
I keep going back to J. M. Coetzee’s Foe.
If I were a character in a book, I’d be:
The quire of paper from Adventures of a Quire of Paper (1779)
The book I keep meaning to get around to is:
There are ever-growing piles of books in both my office and my apartment. I’d say there are too many to name.