Thursday, October 3, 2013

Transactive Memory

I got an unusual email last night informing me that there were now twenty-two subscribers to this blog via that website. Odd if true, since I  haven't posted to this particular blog for well over a year. Just in case any of these subscribers are both real and pining for information, I thought I'd at least update this blog while I was thinking about it. Besides, I'd been meaning to put up a link here anyway.

Clive Thompson has a recent article on Slate which is excerpted from his book Smarter Than You Think: How Technology is Changing Our Minds For the Better. You should just head on over there and read it, but the basic idea is that although we like to think we contain our memory within ourselves, in reality we have always been more than happy to apportion the load. The development in what he terms 'transactive memory' is that we now share the load with machines as well as human partners. And of course I suppose dictionaries and encyclopedias and other texts were the predigital way of having a memory outside ourselves.

An interesting point he makes about the way this memory technique is different from earlier ones is that search engines are not things we can know as well as people and texts. We don't always think about the for profit nature of the hierarchy of information revealed. A lot of people are spending a lot of money to make sure their information rests somewhere near the top, so do yourself a favor and keep the internet more democratic--scroll down a few pages for your answer from time to time.  

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