Chapter Nine: Search, Memory
To open, here is video by Crashcourse. It offers an excellent explanation behind the workings of our brain in the creation of explicit and implicit memories.
Explicit memories are memories which we can consciously recall. Working memory depends largely on the use of explicit memories; for example remembering what is in your fridge so you can decide what to have for dinner, or a fun memory with friends.
Implicit memories are memories which contribute to our ability to perform a task without consciously drawing back to the experience we learned to do it from. For example, reading – many can read but do not recall the time we learned how to do it.
Short term memories can only exist for a very short period of time; it depends on whether or not the synapses in the brain between neurons are strengthened or weakened. In order for them to be turned into long term memories our brains must go through a very specific project called consolidation. The consolidation is a complex anatomical and biochemical process which strengthens memories, making them long term so they can be recalled later. Distractions; from a something large to even the vibration of a phone can entirely disrupt the consolidation process. Sleep is also very beneficial for consolidation, alongside concentration. This is why, if we stay up late studying before a test and only get three hours sleep, our memory is very poor when it is the time to actually write the test.
“The take-home message from a working memory capacity standpoint is this:what we process, we learn. If we’re not processing life, we’re not living it. Live life” – Peter Doolittle
Artificial vs Biological Memory
Biological memory is the memories which are created from our own human experience. Our brain decides on what information to keep, and which information to discard; which constructs the framework that in the basis of our personality.
Artificial memory is the human dependency on resources outside of the brain in order to remember specific things. Some of these things such as books and calculators are extremely helpful in brain development as the help strengthen consolidation. Carr argues that the internet is a source that does not help with our memory- how so?
Carr uses the example of Commonplace books in the chapter as one of the first instances in which artificial manifested. Commonplace books were held by students to document meaningful quotes they found or any connections they made which felt valuable to remember in their studies. For further reading, Ann Moss in her book Printed
Commonplace-books and the Structuring of Renaissance Thought (1999) discusses the role of these books in organizing and analyzing quotes from the studies of renaissance pupils.
Some Questions to ponder:
1. Do you value memorization? What is the place or role of memorization today?
2. Have you ever confronted a problem/challenge that you felt as though you could not solve because of your inability to concentrate? How can we as artists relate to Carr’s struggle to write a book?
3. Carr asks: “How is the way we think changing?”… How is it?
4. What difficulties have you experienced with internet so far?