32 Megabytes of Memory

July 9, 2012 at 9:12pm

The other evening I had the super coolsy opportunity to attend with friends the Houston Symphony's The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses concert at Jones Hall. Great music was made, fun was had; in the concert hall, we created a shared experience.

So, full disclosure here: I haven't played any Legend of Zelda games, not really, anyway. That's not to say I'm completely ignorant of the series, but I have that sort of very incomplete outsider's knowledge from conversation, video game journalism, etc. More on that in a bit.

As the conductor spoke with us in a break in the performance, she mentioned the shared memories of the Zelda fan: an emotional spectrum of elation at successes, frustration with difficulties, and the like. Each person as an individual attending the performance had independent memories of their own experiences with the game, but they were also relatable in a uniquely quintessential way shared by everyone. In a way, I think that's what our consumption of media and popular culture is all converging toward: the creation of shared cultural memories.

Then there's people like me in the concert hall; a concept introduced in this article in The Atlantic succinctly as "Interactional Expertise". This article fascinates me, by the way, because it casts the Turing Test in the light in which I've always kind of thought it should be cast; not an objective test of intelligence, but a sociological examination of how we perceive intelligence. (It's nowhere near an accurate measure of successful AI; chatbots pass by employing topic dodges and the like.) Interactional experts gain their primary knowledge not from practice, or contributory sources, but from talking or interacting with the contributory experts. Like the extent of my knowledge of Zelda, it's possible to passably speak about things, especially media and culture, on a convincing level by "borrowing" some of these shared cultural memories. The best example I can think of is the 2010 World Cup, in which some guy got kicked in the chest during the Spain-Netherlands match. I didn't personally watch it, but from reading about it online and in my social feeds, I was able to successfully carry on some small talk about the game. Is it inauthenticity, or social adaptability?

Anyway, hopefully when I get some time I'm going to tackle The Ocarina of Time. Maybe it's a worthwhile pursuit to make the memories my own.