A Future in which I Can’t Remember

In my dissertation, I wrote:

Scrapbookers “frame” memories to be remembered in scrapbooks, implying that all other memories can be discarded or ignored (see Zerubavel 1991; 1997; 2006). Scrapbookers are deciding which memories are scrapworthy—or are worth remembering. To be scrapworthy an item, person, or memory is perceived to be worth remembering and memorializing. The scrapbook communicates that a life has worth because it is worth remembering. Similarly, Stewart argues that “[b]ecause of its connection to biography and its place in constituting the notion of the individual life, the memento becomes emblematic of the worth of that life and of the self’s capacity to generate worthiness” (Stewart 1993:139).

I don’t feel like I really fully explored the concept of “worth” when writing my dissertation despite calling the research “Scrapworthy Lives.” The concept of “worth” is something that has been more fully crystalized as I’ve hung out online among the websites of scrapbooking thought leaders.

Consider Becky Higgin’s tagline:

Cultivate a good life and record it.

While Higgin’s tagline most fully encapsulates the idea of living a life that is wroth recording in a scrapbook, this concept can also be seen among other thought leaders in the industry. For example, Ali Edwards encourages memory keepers to choose one little word, which promotes the idea that by choosing one word to focus on over the course of the year, one’s life may actually change. There is a clear trend among online industry leaders that infuses self-help culture with scrapbooking to the point where some purpotedly scrapbooking-focused websites look more like a standard issue women’s magazine (diet! exercise! recipes! fashion! home decor! organize! and more!) along with a little scrapbooking. In the end, as a reader, it leaves me feeling a little inferior just like reading women’s magazines leaves me feeling a little inferior.

Unlike other hobbies, scrapbooking involves a great deal of self-reflection. Scrapbookers make decisions about which memories are worth recording but also which memories they want to be able to revisit in the future. Remember, scrapbooking companies, such as Creative Memories, emerged to provide scrapbookers with archival quality materials so that memories would be accessible in the future. Buying into this idea means a person has to have a certain degree of cynicism towards their future ability to remember: a person has to believe that they may forget. Saving one’s memories is similar, then, to other forms of saving (money, for instance). Perhaps, I shouldn’t be so surprised, then, that most of my respondents were middle and upper-middle class. Middle and upper-middle class culture partially revolves around saving (even if most Americans are terrible at it), but more importantly, around an orientation towards the future (think “college as an investment towards your future”).

References:

Stewart, Susan. 1993. On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection. Durham, NC: Duke University Press. (Public Library)

Zerubavel, Eviatar. 1991. The Fine Line: Making Distinctions in Everyday Life. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press. (Public Library)

Zerubavel, Eviatar. 1997. Social Mindscapes: An Invitation to Cognitive Sociology. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (Public Library)

Zerubavel, Eviatar. 1997.2006. The Elephant in the Room: Silence and Denial in Everyday Life. New York: Oxford University Press. (Public Library)

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  • Nat

    One of the presentations I attended last month postulated that sometimes people don’t take pictures because they won’t be able to remember but rather so they can forget. I can dig around for the source if you want.

  • I would like that source. I agree, that there are certainly people who do this.