Sarah Teng   about  selected 


Undergraduate Thesis 
( In Progress )

    In her essay, In Defense of the Poor Image, Hito Steyerl describes a de facto hierarchy of images: one where high resolution, in-focus images are seen as richer in value, more true to life compared to the low resolution, blurry, distorted “poor” images. The poor image is a substandard copy of reality, “a ghost of an image, a preview, a thumbnail, an errant idea, an itinerant image distributed for free, squeezed through slow digital connections, compressed, reproduced, ripped, remixed, as well as copied and pasted into other channels of distribution”. Steryl pushes against this hierarchy, asserting that the low quality of the poor image is actually a testament to the many hands it has passed through, making it no less an embodiment of reality than the high quality image.

    There’s an interesting analog between the low quality image and memory, in that every time a memory is recalled, your brain network changes so that the next time you remember the memory, you might not recall the original memory but what you remembered the previous time. In that way, memory becomes a copy of a copy of a copy of reality, the same way the poor image does after it’s shared many times.


My undergraduate thesis explores the relationship between memory, digital images, and the family archive. In my first semester, I wrote a python program that converts a jpeg image to a webp and then back to jpeg 3000 times, and saving every conversion as one frame in a video. Because jpeg and webp are “lossy” file formats, with every conversion a small amount of image data is lost. I ran this program on photos from my childhood home, and experimented with other lossy file formats to simulate generation loss. 

In my second semester, I’m currently working with images I’ve produced through my degredative methods, and thinking about how to represent them to highlight the material vulnerability of memory, both physical and literal. This page is a collection of the ephemera produced so far, more to come soon...

Ultimately, I hope to answer the quesion: What do we lose and what do we gain when we store memory as digital artifact?

CS fair poster.jpg
CS490 Write Up.pdf