Today I would like to talk about speed skating. Not only because the Dutch are amazingly good at it, but also because I like to speed skate a bit myself. I have even entered a few races, with proper skates, and a tight suit. Having a memory like mine requires careful documentation, though, because when I see a picture of myself on skates it is hard to tell at which race it was taken, or which personal record I was trying to crush. So I solved it by making a spreadsheet to keep track of the dates, the personal records, and the pictures of those memorable races.
After our Dutch speed skating champions returned from the Sochi Winter Olympics, I started thinking about how they would deal with this problem: How to remember a race? Is winning the answer? Do they remember a race better if they won? Or do they remember it better when they almost won, but finished in second place? And races where they made a terrible mistake, will those be remembered?
But there are other ways to specifically cue the sporting memory: in my Career-On-Ice I have changed my outfit often enough to distinguish between races: usually it holds that a faster looking suit matches a better Personal Record. Can that be one of the reasons sports teams change their outfit every year?
I bet the best cue for remembering an achievement is a medal. Look how happy they are! These tangible, generative memory cues will make sure that, for example, Sven Kramer remembers not only those 6:10,76 minutes of his 5000M race, but also the rest of his Olympic adventure. A picture says more than a thousand words, but for cuing your memory I think nothing beats a piece of well-deserved gold.
A Friday in October: I just took my first random Kodak-moment from the most uninteresting part of my bedroom floor. I realised too late that my new iPhone app automatically made a picture after the countdown. “ROOM for Thought”, created by Studio ROOM in the Netherlands, is a mobile app which alerts you every day at a random moment to take a picture. It first shows you a pointless few-second animation, and then you get three seconds to point the camera and wait for the picture to be taken.
I am usually too slow, resulting in blurred photographs of mundane nonsense. But the random pictures still provide a nice overall overview of the last few months: In the example-screenshot taken from the app you can see 4 days during my visit to Sydney last November. Although it seemed random at the time, it is actually all I need to remember the whole visit.
I never ignore the alert, which makes it a powerful conversation starter: I will take the photo, while explaining how enslaved I am by both this app and my PhD research. Next thing you know everyone in the room is sliding through the still images of my everyday life and asking questions about it. For me the power of this application lies in talking about it, because without my story none of it makes sense.
January 16 2014, 14:56 while riding my bicycle – quickly point at something! 3…2…1… Snap! Photo Nr. 94 has been added to my collection of 34.175.