Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the MemoryTech category.

Memory – interesting articles in New Scientist

I saw the New Scientist “Instant Expert” was on Memory recently. I like the way they introduce the topic and explain some of the complexities & incorrect assumptions about how it works.


ConnectToMe – Brains Writ Large

New Scientist magazine has published an article recently about the amazing capability of the human brain to connect stuff together. Our brain has 100 billion neurons, each with up  to 10,000 connections (synapses). That  means we can each make more connections each second than all the computers, smart-phones and calculators in the world can do.

I like the name that’s been given to the future “map” of these brain connections: the connectome (pronounced connect tome). I like to think of it as connect-to-me and feel it puts FaceBook to shame. We’re meant to be connected, inside our heads and to the rest of the world – we’ve each got a brain to do that.

Another article gets to some of the implications of this capability, and the implications of having a map of the brain’s connections. I’m just fascinated with the idea – often expressed in science fiction (see Iain M Banks Culture novels) of being able to store the brain’s state somehow.

One human brain can hold as much information as 300 times what the world has in store in digital, print or written form. Perhaps one day we’ll know how to unlock this memory store more reliably …

Memories Of New Places

I went to see the Hornby museum in Margate yesterday. I’d never been there before, but my son wanted to see it. He’s re-implementing his train set, building a larger layout and turning it digital and was seeking inspiration. Oh, and the museum has a shop too 😉

Anyway, I drove down there with him and my friend Rich. It’s a long journey from our house – about 3 hours counting comfort breaks and breakfast. The roads are good and relatively clear this time of year – nonetheless, it’s a long way East.

As we went along the coast the names of places were very familiar. I couldn’t account for the familiarity: I don’t remember ever being in those parts before, nor why Herne Bay, Margate and Broadstairs are so evocative. Rich was telling us he’d been there many times as a child. His family would get up at 4am and catch the coach from Derby Bus Station to Margate. So it all began to seem familiar, though strange too and with that sepia feel of re-told history.

The Hornby museum  was a bit like that too. There we were, wandering round the maze-like presentation spaces, checking out the intricate models, layouts and kits. Airfix, Corgi, Mattel, Scalectrix, Hornby-Triang – names from my boyhood somehow explained or de-mystified but still evocative. I could smell the Humbrol paint and plastic glue, see the original artworks from the box lids I’d bought. Marvel at the tiny figures and fluffy trees on the railway layouts, wondering again about their lives when the lights are off.

Then the shop – as Rich said a painfully attractive space. Budgets stretching and evolving, no pressure but promises to re-pay being negotiated. Just like with my dad many years ago (though I like to think I was better at doing the Dad thing).

Then off to have lunch – seeking a cafe with a view of the sea. Margate was decrepit and mostly closed – I’ve been to Black Sea resorts off-season and had the same conjuring of population and bustle behind the boarded-up windows. We found an hotel on Botany Bay (I suppose that’s the original one Capt Bligh) with good food and went for a walk to gain appetite.

Now it was Rich’s turn to re-invent the times he and his family spent on the bay. It was (inevitably) smaller than he remembered – though with the tide in that’s a transient situation. He could conjure runs along an endless beach, with knickerbocker glories at the end – though with no recall of where the end was, nor of the imposing cliff-front castellated building looming over one bay we visited.

Despite the cold, there was a filming unit on the beach – John Hurt was strolling (well wrapped up) and his no-doubt-lovely acting partner was standing, wind-blown, in the mid distance, looking blue and interesting.

How do we reconcile these memories, so strong but disconnected, with our adult selves?

The Road Away From Memory

I was reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy – quite a strong story (I hadn’t realise he’d written No Country for Old Men which qualified as the most depressing film of last year).  I took it as an exploration of what’s important and how it becomes important (taken in this case to the extreme of a post apocalyptic world). So I became interested in how the man in the story described the important things in his life – the boy, the trolley, their food.

He has a very sparse descriptive style for most everything, including conversations which needed no words (the understanding between the man and boy making most words unnecessary). However, he does contemplate his circumstances and says:  “He thought if he lived long enough the world at last would all be lost. Like the dying world the newly blind inhabit, all of it slowly fading from memory.”

I like the idea that – in the absence of fresh re-connections to memories, without reminders or prompts – we gradually forget: forgetting both the details and, eventually, the thing itself. For “newly blind” read “early onset dementia sufferers” too.

The importance though … where does the importance go?

Open House – Prompting Investigations

I was Opening my house to art-lovers this weekend (and will be next weekend). One of the joys of doing this – apart from the obvious pleasure in selling my work to an appreciative audience – is the conversation about the work.

From these discussions, I frequently find avenues to explore or variations on my work to consider. This time I had:

It’s good to talk about these things. Now I’ve got to get on and do the work – start on the “Small Objects of Desire” pictures.

Memory Keeper’s Daughter

I’ve just finished reading “The Memory Keeper’s Daughter” by Kim Edwards. It was recommended to me by the person sitting next to me at a dinner recently – we were talking about my artworks and she mentioned the book.

I can see something of what she was saying, how the main male character, David, was a “memory keeper” using photographs as his tool of remembrance. The main female character, Norah, his wife, was haunted by the  loss at birth of her twin daughter – David had kept secret from her that their daughter was in fact still alive. They drifted apart and Norah had an affair – which David found out about, but didn’t mention.

One line from the book: “He’d kept this silence because his own secrets were darker, more hidden, and because he believed his secrets had created hers”.

Well worth reading – good characterisation and pacing throughout, ultimately redemptive.

Recreating visual memories – Chris Porsz

I saw this story in the Metro (a free London paper) on the tube. Here’s a man who took candid (unposed, observations of other people) photographs 30 years ago in the place where he was living: Peterborough. He’s tried to re-create the pictures by asking for those people in them to get in touch through local radio, then posing them in the same locations.

Chris’ bio is on the Peterborough In Pictures site. His photos are poignant and well done.

My interest in these is the different take on memory – how we remember the past and specific events. The photographer is, of course, remembering. But so are the people in the pictures. Their stories are poignant: both the story from then and (particularly for couples) the stories in the 30 years since.

Very interesting.

Memory and music

I recently read an article in New Scientist which reports on how people with poor short-term memory as a result of early onset Alzheimer’s can improve their recall.

The report was saying that if recent news or events are sung (as opposed to spoken or read) to people with this problem, they find it easier to recall them.

I’m always on the look-out for strategies for aiding recall – I’m having that sort of problem already – but this technique, combining as it does the science and art of it, is particularly great.

Maybe someone should start a news channel for the not-so-brilliant-at-remembering where the news is sung throughout … with a music therapist choosing appropriate tunes?

I Love My G1

Just a quick acknowledgement that – without my G1 – I’d not really be able to function day-to-day. The googlemail, calendar, web, maps, GPS, photo integration/combo is great.

Best bit? The slide-out real keyboard 🙂

Tales of Things

I came across this site – mentioned in the New Scientist and on UK Radio 4 – a couple of weeks ago. I liked the idea: every thing has a place and memories associated with it – and was coincidentally about to start my Small Objects of Desire project.

So, I went to visit them in UCL – met a nice bloke called Andy Hudson-Smith – and had a good chat about their project.

I particularly like the idea of putting a QR code onto the object in the real world, so people scanning the code can add their stories to it.

Check out their site:

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