Transactive Memory and the Machines

A reliance on technology is beneficial, allowing our brains to work harder, faster, and outsource more menial tasks such as keep track of which meetings are in which rooms at which times, to a web application. However, that reliance has sometime-damaging effects when coupled with a lack of understanding about how technology works and impacts us.

Camera phones can impact your memory by altering what you focus on and observe while taking a picture. When you take a photo, your brain remembers less of what you photographed, perhaps because it realizes that in taking a photo, you will have a record which you can reference later and therefore the information is less important to store. Dave Pell elaborates on this in an excellent essay on Medium:

“We’ve ceded many of our remembering duties (birthdays, schedules, phone numbers, directions) to a hard drive in the cloud. And to a large extent, we’ve now handed over our memories of experiences to digital cameras.”

This is especially relevant now since camera phones and picture-taking are near-ubiquitous in many facets of our society. Dave Pell continues, remarking:

“Snapping and sharing photos from meaningful events is nothing new. But the frequency with which we take pictures and the immediacy with which we view them will clearly have a deep impact on the way we remember. And with cameras being inserted into more devices, our collective shutterspeed will only increase.”

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