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Knowledge in the world

Last post 10-31-2005, 3:11 by icelava. 0 replies.
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  •  10-31-2005, 3:11 1167

    Knowledge in the world

    A friend has been kind enough to lend me his copy of The Design of Everyday Things, a book I have been longing to read for its reputation for one of the most lauded books in object designs for human use. I am still not done reading, yet, and probably wouldn't want to (and don't need to) write a review for it.

    What I do wish to jot down here is to proclaim this incredible sense of harmony I have over what Donald Norman writes about human thinking and perception of objects. Especially with Chapter Three - Knowledge in the Head and in the World.

    In that chapter, Donald states the volatility of human memory, and how knowledge we keep in our head fades without the discipline of repitition and practice. Therefore, anything that requires great amounts of information stored in our memory to operate it, will tend to be forgotten and thus unusable. It is therefore, as though this is some obscure arcane concept, easier to operate things that by nature of design remind us what to do with them.

    So we don't have to remember much. And he describes this as "knowledge stored in the world". Constant. Persistent.

    And this is where it struck me. This is exactly how I think and work.

    Let me put it down on record: I have very poor memory. Information and details can evaporate within seconds. What I do retain in my brain are blurry images that won't serve well in recalling stuff offhand. That's why I tend not to get into long verbal discussions or debates that involve a substantial amount of deep technical information or numerical figures - I won't be able to query the data out of my bloodied database in an uncorrupted state. Heck, I can't even remember most road/restaurant names in Singapore.

    What's a poor sod like me to do? I keep tabs.

    Since I cannot pull good information directly out of my mind, I then have to store the alternative form - a redirector. Meaning I remember just enough to know where to look should I need to retrieve the knowledge once again. Or a road sign pointing in a general direction, if you will.

    They come in many forms:
    • email archives
    • digital or paper notes
    • books
    • SDK documentation (e.g. MSDN Library)
    • search engines (e.g. Google groups)
    • community sites (articles or forums)
    • newsgroups
    • weblogs
    • and even now, this very personal forums to record down how I worked on a particular issue or solved a problem.
    So my knowledge is stored in the world. But since it is stored outside my mind, is it still considered mine? Well I cannot ascertain for sure. What I do know is I have way too many interests (and responsibilities) in too many things/aspects and that guarantees a certain level of deterrioration each time I context switch between subject matters. There is really no good possible way for me to really remember all within, so I have to offload the burden on my brain to persistent storage in worldly objects and devices.
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