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Memories Can't Wait. Posted on 02/14/2002.

Judith has a faboo post ("twelve") on memory palaces, hypertext, the semiotics of objects, and loss. Including tasty tasty links. She should think at us more.

3 comments so far. Add a comment.

Previous entry: "Faceted Searching, The Forbidden Dance!"
Next entry: "Musing on Museums."


It seems to me that there is a confusion in these threaded discussions on memory. It is a confusion between "memory" and "memories".

Memory is a term that covers several aspects of a central nervous system - animal or vegetable - in which perception leads to learning and then to function. The application of memory essentially defines intelligence. The loss of this process effectively signifies the death of the organism as it had evolved to function.

Memories - as in memory palace examples - are something else again. They are reminiscences, sort of anchored daydreams. They are emotional, not educational. In human beings, they may lead to creativity or delusion; but reminiscences do not train the organism to function. That is the province of memory.

One overlooked aspect of memories is that they are never really happy. The most frequent subjects of recall are either of a painful loss or a personal offense. Humans tend to remember what has hurt or angered them.

But even happy memories are always tinged with sadness. That was then, this is now. Our children, loved ones, pets, youth. Weren't they wonderful? Sigh.
Posted by BJMe @ 02/14/2002 09:33 AM PST [link to this comment]

Thanks for the comments, both of you Merholzes. I think the distinction between memory and memories is an interesting one, but it seems clear that the original purpose of the memory palace was precisely as an "aide-memoire", to enhance the biological functioning of memory. Matteo Ricci, one of the significant early figures in the world of memory palaces, travelled to China and taught the Chinese how to create these structures, demonstrating his own processes for using a memory palace to store Chinese vocabulary and historical notions. In a time without Palm Pilots and other portable information retrieval devices, it seems that rigorous training and specific mnemonic devices were indispensible to the function of memory (training neural pathways and such) as much if not more than they served as a repository for personal feelings past.
Posted by judith @ 02/14/2002 10:18 AM PST [link to this comment]

" In a time without Palm Pilots and other portable information retrieval devices, it seems that rigorous training and specific mnemonic devices were indispensible to the function of memory (training neural pathways and such) "

How did they cope without Palms? ;-)

Surely our culture, even with Palms and other auto-mnemonic devices, incorporates rigorous training in memory techniques, although they might not be part of the official curricculum, so to speak.
Posted by Andrew @ 02/15/2002 01:02 AM PST [link to this comment]

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