I just ran across and am happy to follow Anasuya Sengupta (@Anasuyashh) and
Whose Knowledge? (@WhoseKnowledge) via the New_Public Festival (#NewPublicFestival). Whose Knowledge is “a global campaign to center the knowledge of marginalized communities (the majority of the world) on the internet.”

As I’m reading Margo Neale and Lynne Kelly‘s (@Lynne_Kelly) Songlines: The Power and Promise, I’m curious to explore how the work of  Whose Knowledge might possibly help to empower oral cultures that are neither written down nor on the internet? Also how might this also empower their “third archive”?

Read Talking out loud to yourself is a technology for thinking by Nana Ariel (Psyche)
Talking out loud to oneself is a technology for thinking that allows us to clarify and sharpen our approach to a problem

I ran across this article this evening and some of the ideas resonate strongly with me. The article mentions some areas of psychology research and a few papers I hadn’t seen before.

I’m also particularly interested in the idea of embodied cognition within cognitive psychology. Has anyone delved into these areas in their research or memory-related work? @LynneKelly’s research and written texts encourage singing, dancing and performing (I don’t recall specifically speaking or walking in her contexts, but I’m sure they’re all closely related), but has anyone else experimented with these additional modalities in their practice?

Most of the Western-based mnemotechniques I’m aware of are focused almost solely on internalized speech/thought. Can anyone think of any which aren’t?

I’ve seen several works in which Nassim Nicholas Taleb propounds the benefits of the flaneur lifestyle for improving thought, though his mentions are purely anecdotal as I recall. I’d appreciate any additional references to research in these areas if others are aware.


Like many of us, I talk to myself out loud, though I’m a little unusual in that I often do it in public spaces. Whenever I want to figure out an issue, develop an idea or memorise a text, I turn to this odd work routine. While it’s definitely earned me a reputation in my neighbourhood, it’s also improved my thinking and speaking skills immensely. Speaking out loud is not only a medium of communication, but a technology of thinking: it encourages the formation and processing of thoughts.

I’ve noticed speaking out loud also seems to help me in practicing and acquiring a new language.
Annotated on December 28, 2020 at 09:52PM

The idea that speaking out loud and thinking are closely related isn’t new. It emerged in Ancient Greece and Rome, in the work of such great orators as Marcus Tullius Cicero. But perhaps the most intriguing modern development of the idea appeared in the essay ‘On the Gradual Formation of Thoughts During Speech’ (1805) by the German writer Heinrich von Kleist. 

Some of this is at play with the idea of “[rubber ducking](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rubber_duck_debugging)” as a means of debugging programs
Annotated on December 28, 2020 at 09:55PM

In both cases – speech and writing – the materiality of language undergoes a transformation (to audible sounds or written signs) which in turn produces a mental shift. 

There’s surely a link between this and the idea of thought spaces in the blogosphere or the idea of a commonplace book/digital garden/wiki.
Annotated on December 28, 2020 at 10:06PM

Mute inner speech can appear as an inner dialogue as well, but its truncated form encourages us to create a ‘secret’ abbreviated language and deploy mental shortcuts. By forcing us to articulate ourselves more fully, self-talk summons up the image of an imagined listener or interrogator more vividly. In this way, it allows us to question ourselves more critically by adopting an external perspective on our ideas, and so to consider shortcomings in our arguments – all while using our own speech. 

I’m also reading this and wondering about memory techniques and methods and how these may interact beneficially.
Annotated on December 28, 2020 at 10:07PM

It’s no coincidence that we walk when we need to think: evidence shows that movement enhances thinking and learning, and both are activated in the same centre of motor control in the brain. In the influential subfield of cognitive science concerned with ‘embodied’ cognition, one prominent claim is that actions themselves are constitutive of cognitive processes. That is, activities such as playing a musical instrument, writing, speaking or dancing don’t start in the brain and then emanate out to the body as actions; rather, they entail the mind and body working in concert as a creative, integrated whole, unfolding and influencing each other in turn. It’s therefore a significant problem that many of us are trapped in work and study environments that don’t allow us to activate these intuitive cognitive muscles, and indeed often even encourage us to avoid them. 

I’m curious if Lynne Kelly or others have looked into these areas of research with their Memory work? She’s definitely posited that singing and dancing as well as creating art helps indigenous cultures in their memory work.
Annotated on December 28, 2020 at 10:10PM

Replied to a thread by @KerrieDoodles (Twitter)
If people are depressed by this minimal loss since the 60’s, they’re going to explode when they read research like that of Lynne Kelly on what we’ve actually lost from indigenous cultures. Here’s a good place to start: Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: Orality, Memory and the Transmission of Culture though her TED talk gives a bit of the flavor without the heavier, but worthwhile, reading–in part, because it will give us some ideas about how to turn back the clock and recover some of what we’ve lost.

Read Timeful Texts by Andy Matuschak, Michael Nielsen (numinous.productions)
How might one escape a book’s shackled sense of time, extending the authored experience over weeks and months?
It looks to me like Andy and Michael are grasping at recreating with modern technology and tools what many (most? all?) indigenous cultures around the world used to ritually learn and memorize their culture’s knowledge. Mnemonics, spaced repetition, graded initiation, orality, dance, and song were all used as a cohesive whole to do this.

The best introduction to many of these methods and their pedagogic uses is best described by Lynne Kelly‘s book Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: Orality, Memory, and the Transmission of Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2015).

If they take her ideas as a basis and then layer on their own thinking, I think they’ll get much further much quicker. Based on my reading of their work thus far, they’re limiting themselves solely with western and modern cultures or at least those of a post-Peter Ramus world.

As an example, I’ve recently been passively watching the Netflix series The Who Was? Show which is geared toward children, but it does a phenomenal job of creating entertaining visuals, costumes, jokes, songs, dances, over-the-top theatricality, and small mnemonic snippets to teach children about famous people in our culture. Naturally this is geared toward neophytes, but it’s memorable, especially when watched with some spaced repetition. To follow it up properly it needs the next 10 layers of content and information to provide the additional depth to move it from children’s knowledge to adult and more sophisticated knowledge. Naturally this should be done at a level appropriate to the learner and their age and sophistication and include relevant related associative memory techniques, but it’s a start.

I’ll note that our educational system’s inability to connect (or associate) new knowledge with previous knowledge is a major drawback. 

Replied to a thread (Twitter)
Niklas Luhmann’s idea of Zettelkasten impinges on some of this, but for a deep dive on how indigenous cultures all over the world did this in a pre-industrial setting look at Dr. Lynne Kelly‘s work. Specifically: Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies: Orality, Memory, and the Transmission of Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2015) and When knowledge was power (2012, Latrobe University, PhD thesis). She’s got a fantastic bibliography on her website as well.

Her TED talk shows quickly how she did something similar, but with birds and bird identification. Her work has examples of how many other cultures did this as well.

Replied to Stones only by Kate Bowles (Music for Deckchairs)
The purpose of Stonehenge is lost to us. There will always be debate about its meaning. Stonehenge Visitor Centre, Wiltshire I grew up in England, although I wasn’t born here. Here. I’m…
I ran across this 5 year old article courtesy of a few recent tweets:

What surprises me is that it’s about education and pedagogy that starts off with a vignette in which Kate Bowles talks about the unknown purpose of Stonehenge.

But I’ve been doing some serious reading on the humanities relating to memory, history, and indigenous cultures over the last few years. It dawns on me:

I know what those stones are for!

A serious answer provided by Australian science and memory researcher Dr. Lynne Kelly indicates that Stonehenge and similar monolithic sites built by indigenous cultures across the world are–in fact–pedagogic tools!!

We’ve largely lost a lot of the roots of our ancient mnemonic devices through gradual mis- and dis-use as well as significant pedagogic changes by Petrus Ramus, an influential French dialectician, humanist, logician, and educational reformer. Scholar Frances Yates indicated in The Art of Memory that his influential changes in the mid-1500’s disassociated memory methods including the method of loci, which dated back to ancient Greece, from the practice of rhetoric as a field of study. As a result we’ve lost a fantastic tradition that made teaching and the problem of memory far worse.

Fortunately Lynne Kelly gives a fairly comprehensive overview of indigenous cultures across human history and their use of these methods along with evidence in her book Memory Code which is based on her Ph.D. thesis. Even better, she didn’t stop there and she wrote a follow up book that explores the use of these methods and places them into a modern pedagogy setting and provides some prescriptive uses.

I might suggest that instead of looking forward to technology as the basis of solutions in education, that instead we look back—not just to our past or even our pre-industrial past, but back to our pre-agrarian past.

Let’s look back to the tremendous wealth of indigenous tribes the world over that modern society has eschewed as “superstitious” and “simple”. In reality, they had incredibly sophisticated oral stories and systems that they stored in even more sophisticated memory techniques. Let’s relearn and reuse those techniques to make ourselves better teachers and improve our student’s ability to learn and retain the material with which they’re working.

Once we’ve learned to better tap our own memories, we’ll realize how horribly wrong we’ve been for not just decades but centuries.

This has been hard earned knowledge for me, but now that I’ve got it, I feel compelled to share it. I’m happy to chat with people about these ideas to accelerate their growth, but I’d recommend getting them from the source and reading Dr. Kelly’s work directly. (Particularly her work with indigenous peoples of Australia, who helped to unlock a large piece of the puzzle for her.) Then let’s work together to rebuild the ancient edifices that our ancestors tried so desperately to hand down, but we’ve managed to completely forget.

The historical and archaeological record:
The Memory Code: The Secrets of Stonehenge, Easter Island and Other Ancient Monuments by Dr. Lynne Kelly

A variety of methods and teaching examples:
Memory Craft: Improve Your Memory with the Most Powerful Methods in History by Dr. Lynne Kelly

Annotated on April 26, 2020 at 08:34PM

Read - Reading: Memory Craft: Improve your memory using the most powerful methods from around the world by Lynne KellyLynne Kelly (Allen & Unwin)
📖 On page 198 of 320 of Memory Craft

I love some of the things she’s documenting here though I’ll have to dig into her references. She’s much better versed in memory practice than Yates, in part because she actually makes a practice of using the techniques. There are pieces I wish she went into greater depth on.

Syndicated to Goodreads on March 15, 2020 at 11:52AM

Read - Reading: Memory Craft: Improve your memory using the most powerful methods from around the world by Lynne KellyLynne Kelly (Allen & Unwin)
📖 On page 130 of 320 of Memory Craft

I’m loving all these examples of memory devices she’s discovered and describing in this section. Not much of this is covered in much (any?) of the other common literature on memory.

Dr. Lynne Kelly’s research on history, indigenous people, and memory, and a dovetail with Big History

David Christian, Fred Spier, Bill Gates, Big History Institute, and other Big History researchers and thinkers, if you’re not already aware of her, allow me to introduce you to researcher Dr. Lynne Kelly. Her work dramatically expands our understanding of pre-literate societies’ learning, memory, and particularly collective learning. Further, it makes for a strong and fascinating story that could not only be integrated into Big History; it provides links between modern and pre-modern humans and ties deeply into ideas of origin stories, mythology, and early religion; and it provides actual methods for improving student’s memories and particularly that for history.

I think her work has some profound impact on the arc of Big History, particularly with respect to Threshold 6, well into Threshold 7, and continuing into the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution. In true big history fashion, her thesis also touches heavily on a broad array of topics including anthropology, archaeology, psychology, neuroscience, history, and education.

A broad, reasonable introduction to her work can be had in CalTech physicist Sean Carroll’s  recent podcast interview.

Another short introduction is her TEDx Melbourne talk:

A solid popular science encapsulation of her work can be found in her book The Memory Code: The Secrets of Stonehenge, Easter Island and Other Ancient Monuments (Pegasus Books, 2017).

A more thorough academic treatment of her work can naturally be found in:

With some work, I think her research could become a better foundational basis for a stronger bridge from threshold 6 into threshold 7 with dramatic impact on how we view origin stories, mythology, religion. It also has some spectacular implications for improving pedagogy and memory within our educational systems and how we view and use collective memory and even innovation in the modern world.

Watched Modern memory, ancient methods by Lynne Kelly from TEDxMelbourne | YouTube

Today, we explore whether memory still has a practical place in the world of big data and computing.

As a science writer, Lynne has written 18 books including The Memory Code. Her research showed that without writing, people used the most extraordinary suite of memory techniques to memorise massive amounts of practical information. This explains the purpose of monuments like Stonehenge, the Nazca Lines and the statues of Easter Island. Her next book, Unlocking The Memory Code explains the most effective memory methods from around the world and throughout time. Lynne shows how these can be invaluable in modern world. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community.

I had watched this earlier this fall, but thought I’d take another peek for the compactness of the presentation.
Listened to Sources and Methods #34: Lynne Kelly by Alex Strick van LinschotenAlex Strick van Linschoten from Sources & Methods

Interview with Lynne Kelly primarily covering an overview of her memory-related works and focusing primarily on her academic work including her Ph.D. thesis and subsequent archaological-based texts. This appears to have been done prior to The Memory Code and so doesn’t cover those portions of some the more applied areas like her work in rapscallions or the bestiary.

Originally bookmarked on December 14, 2019 at 08:42AM

Listened to Memory Craft: Lynne Kelly On The Potent Power Of Ancient Mnemonics by Anthony Metivier from magneticmemorymethod.com

Cover of Memory Craft by Lynne KellyNot only is Lynne Kelly the author of several books on memory, but she is a highly skilled researcher, science educator, author and memory competitor.

Most known for her theory about Stonehenge’s purpose, she has also contributed to work in popular science and is a promoter of skepticism.

Lynne’s critical thinking and contributions to such a wide range of science subjects has led to awards from the Royal Zoological Society of South Wales among others. As a memory expert, Lynne Kelly is that rare practitioner who takes on large learning projects and shares the journey in addition to attending memory sport activities.

Episode covers:

  • The real reason why stores play such upbeat, catchy music.
  • Why outdoor Memory Palaces can be so helpful for memory retention.
  • The benefits of “setting aside” time for memory training versus incorporating practice into everyday life.
  • How vivid, violent, or vulgar imagery can bring abstract concepts to life.
  • Why “rapscallions” are useful memory tools and not just mischievous little creatures.
  • How art can help you remember more in a Memory Palace.
  • The pros and cons to living with aphantasia.
  • The key to using hooks and layering to create dynamic visuals.
  • How to “dialogue” with your memory aids.
  • Why we should encode using music and places for maximum mental skill (and possible mental health) benefits.
  • The usefulness of memory techniques for school aged children and their long-term effects.
  • The secret to overcoming “ghosting” when using memory techniques.

Subscribe: Apple Podcasts | Android | Google Podcasts | Stitcher | RSS

A fascinating interview, but likely needs some additional introductory material to make sense of what is going on. The audience here are people who have at least a passing knowledge of mnemonics and many of it’s methods. I could have stood to hear a few more hours between these two given my academic interest in the area.

There’s an interesting segment on aphantasia and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in the middle here. I’d definitely be interested in looking into the research on aphantasia more. There’s also some more material here on memory methods for education (compared with other interviews with Dr. Kelly). She does use a physics example on force and the idea of push/pull with respect to Star Wars which I’ve heard her mention before.

Originally bookmarked on December 07, 2019 at 01:11PM

An informal mnemonics podcast

I started out using Huffduffer to collect a handful of podcast interviews with LynneKelly on her work with mnemonics, but noticed a handful of others that had already been using various tags like “memory” and “mnemonics” on the service as well.

While I know there are some podcasts dedicated directly to memory, most of the ones I’ve tagged/highlighted in my list are one-off episodes or radio interviews that stand alone. I’ve also gone through a few past posts on the forum about podcast episodes relating to memory and tagged them as well.

I’ve seen a dozen or so other posts on the forum here in which people have mentioned particular podcasts, so I’ll mention that Huffduffer is a great audio-based web tool for finding, discovering, and collecting audio content. It also provides iTunes subscribe-able audio feeds for every account, collective, and even tag on the site.

If you’re interested in the topic of “mnemonics” you can subscribe to the public RSS feed on Huffduffer and you’ll automatically be updated in your podcatcher of choice whenever anyone else in the community uses Huffduffer and tags an audio file with the same “mnemonics” tag.

Happy listening and collecting.