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Internet and Memory

October 25, 2012

Since I took a memory angle on my Digital Story Telling project, I found an article on the Internet and its effects on memory: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=internet-transactive-memory.  The consensus in the article seems to be that the Internet has simply become an extension of memory, like an external hard drive for the human brain, and the fact that we don’t memorize things anymore is positive.  I do agree with this, though I have a skewed take on one thing, and it’s completely personal.  That is, the less I commit to memory, the less informed, even less intelligent I feel.  No doubt this is a result of my being largely the product of a pre-Internet educational system that did put a premium on memorization, or maybe I’m just disturbed by any holes I perceive in my recall since I come from a family that’s been affected by dementia.  So I guess I’ll continue to memorize as much as I can until I can’t remember to do it anymore.

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8 Comments leave one →
  1. dawnrocha99 permalink
    October 25, 2012 5:51 pm

    I completely understand what you are talking about. My grandmother has Alzheimer’s and my fear of that disease is greater than cancer. I think it all started with cell phones… I know no one’s number by heart anymore and can barely remember by own if asked for it. Keeping your brain active regardless of memory storage is the key so just keep learning…even if you do not retain it for long. I found the digital storytelling a new avenue for my younger cousins to listen to the stories of our family something I believed would vanish with my parents generation. Oh and eat your spinach…its supposed to be a wonderful combative for ALZ.

  2. jayon615 permalink
    October 25, 2012 6:15 pm

    I’ve always had a poor memory. Age has little to do with it. Online memory aids are the best things that have ever happened to me. As long as I have time to look it up, I’m brilliant.

  3. blazekj permalink
    October 26, 2012 10:01 am

    This is such an interesting article and topic to me for a number of reasons. Per the article, I generally agree that the internet is replacing substantial chunks of what used to reside in my memory. When I was a kid, I had dozens, maybe hundreds, of phone numbers, addresses, sports statistics, (parents credit card numbers…) memorized. Now, even though I use more of this kind of information as an adult than I did as a child, I have very very few of these things memorized. Sometimes I worry a bit about what I would do if my phone broke and I needed to call my wife at work, or if I get lost in an unknown town. But most of the time I appreciate who I am as a result of what technology does for me. I generally feel that the internet is a virtual extension of my memory which allows me to recall incredible amounts of information with minimal mistakes. Sure, I have become somewhat dependent on this technology. But I consider it analogous to being dependent on a good coat in the winter or sturdy boots while hiking or a car to get to and from work. It’s a tool that allows me to live “better.” If it is occasionally unavailable or breaks down, I’ll survive. But I would rather live with the benefit of these technologies while they work than forego them altogether because I dislike feeling dependent on them. In the meantime, I will continue to use the internet to be more knowledgeable and informed with less time and effort than I would otherwise be able to be.

  4. Alice Worden permalink
    October 26, 2012 10:32 am

    This comment is a little less focused on the internet aspect of the article, but I think it bears on the discussion anyhow.

    I completely disagree with the assertion in the article that memorizing material (in an academic context) comes at the expense of understanding the material. I’m thinking, in particular, of a class I took as an undergrad that was well outside my field of knowledge, and thus extremely difficult. As a survival strategy, I memorized long, complex sections of my notes and regurgitated them on the tests. While it’s true that I didn’t understand the material when I was being tested on it, I frequently found that as the class progressed, the older material started to make sense. Having it memorized made it easy to access once I finally got to a place where I could understand it. So by the time I was writing down memorized answers on the second test, the memorized answers I wrote on the first test were things that I understood well.

    You may be able to tell that I’m a big fan of memorization, but I’m not worried about the things I’m not memorizing because I rely on the internet to be there for me. I’d be more likely to worry about the things I’m not memorizing because I rely on a particular piece of hardware to be there for me; if I ever lost my phone, I could call my wife from a pay phone, but I’d bet money that if it were reversed, she doesn’t know my phone number. It’s sort of a numbers issue; the chances of the internet failing permanently are minor; the chances of finding myself without a phone, or my computer, are quite a bit more significant.

  5. October 26, 2012 12:32 pm

    I wholeheartedly agree with your assessments and commentary. Because I remember life before the Internet (*gasp*) and even home computers, I remember well having to memorize phone numbers for family, friends, and classmates and any number of inane things that are now done by electronics and the Internet. I worry that we are so dependent upon technology that any fracturing of the current ways will cause serious disruptions in everyday life. I see great value in holding onto some of our old ways – including memorizing phone numbers – and wish that were considered to be more important.

    Deanna Thompson

  6. choshil permalink
    October 26, 2012 5:21 pm

    I have mixed feelings about memory. I’ve always had a horrible memory, especially when it comes to events and time. Sometimes I think my constant use of the Web is causing my memory to deteriorate even further. Now I don’t have to try and come up with names, places, or events, I can just look it up… no additional thinking required 😛 But in college, I would have to memorize lists of names and dates for art history exams. In my experience, I could do well on exams using memorization, but do I remember all of that information today? Unfortunately no. So I guess when I NEED to use my memory, I can do it, but I’m rarely forced to these days.

  7. October 26, 2012 6:34 pm

    This is such a huge topic and I always hear people my parents’ age saying, “you kids don’t have to learn anything. It’s all available to you online.” I actually think I have learned more because of the Internet. Everyone has questions and want the answer, but rarely do you hop in your car and drive to the library to research the answer. Because of the Internet, I am more likely to find the answers to my questions and I tend to retain that knowledge. I, personally, do not believe memorization is that important as memorizing does not always mean understanding. It’s more important to learn than to memorize.

  8. October 26, 2012 10:02 pm

    This is fascinating. I am an avid Evernote user. I use the app on my phone or on my computer. If I am away from my phone or computer, I can access my account online from anywhere. This product has helped me organize all of those tiny pieces of paper I used to write. It helps me keep track of all the Marylin Monroe movies I’ve watched, grocery lists, school assignments, etc. I no longer need to waste valuable memory space.

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