How might one escape a book’s shackled sense of time, extending the authored experience over weeks and months?
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.
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.
This took me back to a time and something I’d forgotten writing, that has made me rethink where we are now: https://t.co/COgNQnutZr
— Kate Bowles (@KateMfD) April 25, 2020
“power is distributed very unevenly throughout the global network of higherEd institutions. If digital innovation is left to the market, we will continue to see scale and standardisation dressed up as personalisation and differentiation.” @KateMfD https://t.co/pqskuKPbQj
— Robin DeRosa (@actualham) April 25, 2020
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
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
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.
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:
- When knowledge was power (Ph.D. thesis, 2012)
- Knowledge and power in prehistoric societies: orality, memory and the transmission of culture (Cambridge University Press, 2015)
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.
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.
Originally bookmarked on December 14, 2019 at 08:42AM
Not 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.
- 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.
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
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.
Lynne Kelly is a science writer who was researching the methods used by ancient cultures to retain vast amounts of information about animals and plants.
She was looking into the way knowledge was recorded through stories, song and dance.
On a journey to Stonehenge in England, Lynne was struck by the thought that the makers of that monumental stone circle were doing the same thing.
Lynne's research suggests the stone circles of England, the huge animal shapes in Peru, and the statues of Easter Island, were not so much objects of superstition, but tools allowing people to create a huge storehouses of knowledge.
An academic with diverse interests including spiders, history, and scepticism, Lynne applies the memory 'code' to manage her own stores of facts and information.
Duration: 48min 28sec
Originally bookmarked on December 07, 2019 at 01:08PM
Traditional Aboriginal Australian songlines hold the key to a powerful memory technique used by indigenous people around the world.
Have you ever wondered how ancient indigenous cultures maintain so much information about the thousands of species of plants and animals—without writing it down? Traditional Aboriginal Australian songlines are key to a powerful memory technique used by indigenous people around the world. It's intricately tied to the landscape and it can be applied in our everyday lives.
Duration: 28min 49sec
Originally bookmarked on December 07, 2019 at 01:13PM