20 December 2017
As part of DSI’s Society Theme, we held a two-day workshop on Making Memories Intelligible: Digital tools for cognitive enhancement.

How can we improve our memories, and what would “improve” even mean? This interdisciplinary workshop sought to address these questions from many different angles in order to develop a better understanding of memory in later life and the potential for innovative digital techniques to support/augment cognitive training.

The workshop attracted participants from around the country and from diverse disciplines, including computing, design, psychology, and sociology, for a series of keynote presentations and lightning talks, followed by hands-on workshop activities where attendees developed proposals for next-generation augmented memory technologies.

The workshop began with two excellent and wide-ranging keynote presentations. Firstly, Ben Pridmore, three-time memory world champion, discussed the power of visual imagery and mnemonic techniques for enhancing specific memory recall tasks in A Mnemonist's Perspective on Memory. Prof. Robert Logie (University of Edinburgh) then discussed the role of forgetting and the types of digital technologies that might support this in Contextualised Remembering and the ForgetIt Project. We then had lightning talks from: Prof. Nigel Davis (DSI) who outlined Lessons from the RECALL project; Dr. John Rooksby (University of Edinburgh) who described methods to investigate Lived Informatics; and Dr. Emily Spiers (ISF) who talked about Collective Story-telling: On Culture and Memory.

Following the presentations, and lively debates around the role of subjective and objective memories, attendees worked in groups to identify, discuss and pitch ‘big challenges’ for memory. This conversation rolled into a workshop dinner at the Lancaster House Hotel, where we continued to debate the various challenges and definitions of memory, and what we mean when we seek to “improve” memory.

On the second day, attendees formed four special interest groups relating to: (a) future memory devices for applications in health, (b) ‘counter functional’ memory devices to make personal memories more meaningful, (c) designing an augmented memory championship to supercharge scientific research with more explicit goals, (d) seamless brain-machine interfaces for future memory devices. In these groups, participants developed ambitious ideas for future memory devices through an interactive process of group discussions, presentations, peer-review of ideas, and paper prototyping.

The workshop was designed to be discussion-oriented, utilising a variety of activities to kick-start productive interdisciplinary conversations about memory to uncover potential trajectories for future research. Attendees enjoyed the diversity of speakers and perspectives, and we are currently exploring publication options for a group paper, as well as creating an official ‘augmented memory championship’ at Lancaster University in collaboration with Ben Pridmore!