Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Memory is linked to context

From a blog post by Shawn Callahan 10/11/08

Remembering experiences is heavily dependent on surroundings. I’m currently helping an energy company learn the lessons from retiring employees. I’m videoing their experiences with the view to facilitating sessions using the footage; it’s not really about capturing knowledge, just sparking new conversation based on what’s captured. My last subject was the company’s network controller. He’d been in the role for 10 years and I interviewed him in his office, which was right next to the control room. The control room looks like a mini version of the one from the movie The China Syndrome. His office has a window looking into the control room and it is festooned with charts and whiteboard diagrams. Everywhere you look are computer screens. He has a large table in the middle of his office, which has been the site of many disaster response war rooms. He was brimming with stories.

The network controller was retiring two weeks after my interview and I asked whether I could interview him again at his home. He was happy to help. A month later we met in his lounge room and the response was noticeably different. The stories weren’t as rich. It was harder for him to recall the events. The surroundings didn’t contain the memories and prompters to help him remember what he knew. Surroundings make a big difference to what people can recall.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for sharing your experience! I have also started doing my video takes when capturing anecdotes in one take. Putting an interviewee on the spot, without making them feel too uncomfortable, I found also sharpened insight.