Workshop: Remembering in Context: Social, Cognitive, Linguistic and Material Aspects of Memory

When: June 14-16, 2012
Where: Center for Interdisciplinary Research (ZiF), Bielefeld University

The act of sharing memories with others is one of the most common ways to create, maintain and negotiate human relationships. Remembering in social groups is situated, goal-oriented and, as expected (due to the influence exerted by the previous two features) involves the interplay of our brains, bodies, and the immediate physical and social environment.  The aim of this workshop is to integrate our understanding of the discursive and pragmatic nature of remembering with the cognitive processes that enable the synchronization of individual and shared memories with the social and material environment in which they are communicated. In order to accomplish this aim, we will bring together diverse perspectives in memory and communication research, from neuro and cognitive and social psychologists to cognitive linguists, computer scientists and sociologists.  

The wide spectrum of disciplines, from sociology and media studies to cognitive linguistics and neuropsychology, that were represented by the invited speakers created outstanding academic conditions for the debate of issues concerning the conversational, embodied, distributed and neurological nature of remembering in normal and clinical populations. Such interdisciplinary settings enabled the participants to engage in rich and very stimulating debates that are rarely seem in event
s of this kind.  On the one hand, cognitive and neuropsychologists have their own array of conferences where they present their latest findings in experimental settings and clinical populations. On the other, social psychologists, sociologists, designers and cognitive linguists also have their own venues where to present their work on the ways in which memories are reconstructed and communicated in interactional, conversational and embodied practices. These two ends of the memory spectrum rarely meet, and thus, their hypotheses are not frequently tested with expert audiences from outside their academic and disciplinary community.
A broad variety of methodological approaches were presented in the workshop, from fMRI studies and sophisticated conversational approaches in cognitive and social psychology in natural and experimental settings to multimodal approaches which deal with the embodiment and materiality of personal and shared memories in dance, gesture, body posture and technological devices. In doing so, the workshop has served as a showcase which brought together the state of the art in methodological terms in memory research. One example of the sort of methodological debates between that were witnessed during the workshop had to do with the current and future implications of the use of neuro-imaging techniques to determine the veracity or falsity of testimonies in judicial systems. 

Lucas Bietti (Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities, Essen/VU Amsterdam)
Charles Stone (Catholic University of Louvain)
William Hirst (New School for Social Research, New York)