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War between awareness and memory

Patrick Lambe suggests that we face a war between awareness and memory: “there is evidence that faster, easier, access to current awareness broadens our absorption of the present and thins out our access to the past. Simply put, too much of now means less and less memory”.

I’m not very active on my Twitter account (maybe a few posts a day with many skipped days in between). I have found, though, that Twitter is far more about relationships than about content. Twitter is about conversations that vaporize rather quickly. When I access Twitter, I’m not too concerned about conversations that went on before (“before” defined as anything more than 5 minutes ago). I jump in to catch a bit of a stream, share a thought/link. A relationship does exist between time on Twitter and how productive I feel: more time, less productive. Twitter can help a person become aware of new technologies and information, but for depth of learning (reflection, thinking, writing – i.e. getting past “what it is” and moving to “what it means”) Twitter is limited.

In terms of searching content, I have noticed a change in my habits. Since Google Reader started allowing users to search their own RSS history, it has become my primary search tool. I know I’ve come across a certain topic before, and Google Reader provides something that is missing in almost all other search options: context.


  1. Ken Allan wrote:

    Kia ora e George.

    Tony Karrer approached this from another angle earlier this year when he posted about the same or similar problem while seeking ways to ease the pain of less memory using technology.

    Thinning the brain’s access to the past as opposed to frustrations while doing an info-search is more to do with how we permit the brain to be used.

    I concur with what you say here about “faster, easier, access to current awareness”. Reflection is needed, not only to access the past but also to consolidate its memory (for the future). If time for reflection is in short supply then both these necessities get short changed. The result is less memory.

    It appears the solution is simple.

    Catchya later

    Thursday, July 30, 2009 at 5:08 am | Permalink
  2. Jon K. wrote:

    Twitter is useful for me to leverage instant results for ideas or feedback – or to see what’s going on out there. It seems that Twitter, until it matures a bit more is a way to drive readers to content elsewhere. Maybe it won’t develop into more than a redirection service.

    Tuesday, August 4, 2009 at 11:42 am | Permalink