“Technology has changed the way we organise information so that we only remember details which are no longer available, and prioritise the location of information over the content itself. […] individuals develop a transactive memory with the internet and rely on it for information by focusing on where details are located rather than the details themselves.” S. Noreen


Today, watch Betsy Sparrow discuss some of these experimental findings; how deliberate are your choices about remembering content or location in your digital life?  When you chose to ‘save’ information on to a computer, are you freeing up cognitive resources for stillness or to fill up with more information and feed the monkey mind? Does the attempt to remember location of information you have not read create memory overload?

Note that in the video Betsy speaks of transactive memory as something that is an integral part of our memory. We have always relied on the strategy of ‘I don’t know, but I know someone who does’. The only difference now is that we are using people remotely or inanimate search engines to ‘hold’ (and this is important) memories we label as unimportant. This research led to some sensationalist headlines about Google and our increased stupidity a few years back. The video and the article quoted above, offer a more balanced perspective and highlight the importance of intentionality in how we use devices and people. She and her co-authors say in another article,

“Storing information externally is nothing particularly novel, even before the advent of computers. In any long term relationship, a team work environment, or other ongoing group, people typically develop a group or transactive memory, a combination of memory stores held directly by individuals and the memory stores they can access because they know someone who knows that information. The Internet has become a primary form of external or transactive memory, where information is stored collectively outside ourselves.” Sparrow, Liu and Wegner 

Is your use of transactive memory (people or devices or both) deliberate? What is the intention of the choices you make? What is worth the effort to remember? What is not worth the effort?


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