Selective retention of information.

Posted: July 16, 2011 in SocialBiz

I read the post “Internet use affect memory, study find” in the NYTimes this morning and to adds a great avenue for “selling” the benefits of SocialBiz. Let me explain.

While I’m not an anthropologist, basic survival instincts would suggest that we would only use valuable resources, such as memory and recall, for something that would provide a benefit. If we think about the life of the early humans when life was a game of chance we can see that many of the events that come to mind are high impact. Finding food, realising that it is safe to eat, that animal is stronger than me and will eat me etc. Fast forward to now and we can see that many of our interactions are not life threatening and therefore we could argue that there isn’t a need to retain the information. Does knowing where to buy the cheapest petrol really enhance my survival chances? Probably not. However memory and recall can be enhanced through interest. It may not impact my survival chances but if I’m interested then I’ll remember. Some people get a kick out of finding the cheapest petrol, or knowing all the fashion labels, or the coming and going of their favourite celebrities.

So how does this work when we have access to so much information nearly all the time? To me I can see something different happening. Rather than remembering the actual facts we remember a pointer to the fact. Much like a computer file system does when creating a shortcut or using “single instance storage’ (keep one copy and link to it). If I read something on the internet that I’m not that interested in, but might be, I save my brain power and instead remember that it was “on the internet”. How many times have you said “I read XYZ on a blog post the other day” then struggle to remember many of the details. The title is there and the subject but because you know you can obtain the details later they aren’t stored in memory.

And so it is with social networks. As a group we can store information that is searchable where everybody knows how to find it and we can surface the information in various formats in different contexts. Faster time to access information and adding depth and richness to information through groups all enables time to resolution for problems and a competitive advantage.

I’m going to explore these concepts in more detail in future posts but in the mean time I’m keen to hear your thoughts. Do you remember a link to the source or can you recall it with ease? How do you collate the information for future access? How can you best arrange information and make it useful to those that dont even know it exists?

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