How I Remember and How She Remembers

Posted on January 16, 2010 by


Memory is a metaphor needed by a ‘handicappedobserver who cannot see a complete system…” (Ashby, 1956: 115) – by GC Bowker, Memory Practices in the Sciences

An erudite way to say that the more talented you are, the less tools you need.  The more talented you are as an observer, the less you need memory.

It takes me a really really really long time to leave my place.  I tend to leave late, and when I’m on the cusp of leaving, I spend even more time gathering all the stuff I think I need.

After I’ve headed out the door, I then have lingering doubts that I’ve forgotten something.

Wallet, possibly?  Keys?  Locking the door?

I’m always constantly making sure I have my wallet, keys, and phone, especially when biking, by patting my pockets.

I almost never remember locking the front door.  Many a time on the road, I’ve driven back while on a Los Angeles freeway, just to make sure that I indeed locked the door.

If I apply the quote to my situation, by definition, I do not “see” “the whole system.”  I am a “handicapped observer” when it comes to making sure I’ve got everything before I leave the house.   However, the flip side is that I can recall lots of obscure things in my past.  I guess I’m a “diligent observer” of my more distant past.

Its quite the contrast to my partner, who never appears to flinch when I ask her if she’s got her keys or wallet.  She knows she has her keys and wallet, and were out the door.  She’s a “diligent observer” of the short-term. Yet on the flip side, she says she has “bad memory”, meaning “bad [long-term] memory.”  And it’s true that she can’t recall a few of the things in the past that happened just months ago.

I think that one reason I can’t quite remember things, and subsequently leave the house so quickly is because I’m always thinking about something. All that thinking or mental traveling obstructs “the” or “any” coherent picture of LOGISTICAL stuff that needs to get done in the moment.  Apparently, according to my partner, I’m horribly oblivious to a lot of my surroundings.