Centrum för kognitiv semiotik (CCS)

Humanistiska och teologiska fakulteterna | Lunds universitet

Mini-symposium: Memory research, experimental semiotics, and street art

Mini-symposium: Memory research, experimental semiotics, and street art

Reconstructing Bartlett: The serial reproduction of his ideas

Brady Wagoner (Aalborg University)

Abstract: The claim that memory is (re)constructive is no longer controversial in psychology. However, it has generally come to mean that memory is inaccurate or distorted, rather than pointing to adaptive and future-oriented understanding of it. The latter notion was put forward in the locus classicus of constructive memory, Frederic Bartlett’s (1932) Remembering. In contrast to the traditional approach that saw memory as a faculty for retaining information, Bartlett approached it as an ‘imaginative reconstruction,’ focusing on such neglected but essential issues as meaning-making, culture and social relations in remembering. This presentation outlines his experiments and theory of remembering in relation to his work on cultural dynamics, and then traces how his ideas were themselves reconstructed by others after him.  In this history the meaning of ‘constructive’ itself changes from a situated and adaptive concept to becoming synonymous with memory distortion after the cognitive revolution and the associated metaphor of mind as machine.

Brady Wagoner is Professor of Psychology and Director of the MA and PhD programs in Cultural Psychology at Aalborg University, Denmark. He received his PhD from the University of Cambridge, where he also co-created the F.C. Bartlett Internet Archive. He is associate editor of the journals Culture & Psychology and Peace & Conflict. His research focuses on the cultural and constructive dimensions of the mind, particularly in relation to memory and social change. His most recent books include The Constructive Mind: Bartlett’s Psychology in Reconstruction (Cambridge University Press, 2017), Street Art of Resistance with Sarah H. Awad (Palgrave, 2017), Handbook of Culture and Memory (Oxford University Press, 2018) and The Psychology of Radical Social Change: From Rage to Revolution (Cambridge University Press, 2018).

Cairo post 2011: Collective Memory, urban space, and street art.

Sarah H. Awed (Aalborg University)

Abstract: This presentation looks at political street art as a tool for social action and resistance. Social actors produce street art images to represent and propagate particular versions of social reality. These images are in turn interpreted, transformed, reconstructed, and destroyed by other social actors in a continuous process of negotiating social reality and the power of representing it in the public space. Using sociocultural psychology theoretical framework, I will show how images are used to create visibility, shape emotions and mobilise action, position and create arguments, and to commemorate and shape the community’s collective memory. 

The focus will be on the commemoration aspect. In the context of the 2011 Egyptian revolution and city space, I will discuss the efforts of activists and graffiti artists to preserve the memory of the revolution through graffiti murals, wall tagging, and the renaming of certain streets and stations. On the other hand, the authorities’ efforts to erase those signs and replace them with new icons and monuments representing their alternative narrative of recent history. Building on Bartlett’s concept of reconstructive remembering and serial reproductions, I will follow the transformation of Cairo city space and discuss how it has been transformed deliberately using symbols to regulate a community’s collective memory.

Bio: Sarah H. Awad is a Ph.D. fellow at the Centre for Cultural Psychology, Aalborg University, Denmark. She received her M.Sc. in social and cultural psychology from London School of Economics and Political Science and her B.A. in mass communication from the American University in Cairo. Her research interests are in the interrelation between the fields of cultural psychology, communication, and social development. She has published work exploring the process by which individuals develop through times of life ruptures and social change using art and storytelling. She has a special interest in visual methodology and the analysis of urban images and their influence on identity, collective memory and politics within a society. Her most recent books include Street Art of Resistance with Brady Wagoner (Palgrave, 2017), and The Psychology of Imagination: History, Theory and New Research Horizons, with Brady Wagoner and Ignacio Brescó de Luna (Info Age, 2017)