CHI 2007: Software or Wetware? Discovering When and Why People Use Digital Prosthetic Memory

Software or Wetware? Discovering When and Why People Use Digital Prosthetic Memory
Vaiva Kalnikaite, Steve Whittaker

“A laboratory study examining the factors influencing people’s choice of when to use prosthetic memory or organic memory and why. Can assist in developing effective memory aids.”

The author sees a trend from the man alone to man with paper to man with an accurate prosthetic memory. They ask how realistic this is. What are occasions when our organic memories are not good enough?
Gave people devices.
benefits of it,
perceptions of it,
the characteristics of the devices, and
change in use over time.

Devices were
Organic Memory (OM)
Pen & Paper (PP)
Dictaphone (DP)
ChittyChatty (CC)

(What is ChittyChatty? A combo of handwritten notes and audio-recording (coindexed) on a pda.)

They noted that some of these methods are more accurate; some are more efficient.

Experiment: given 3 stories over 3 sessions. They were asked to answer questions about stories. Seven days later we gave them back their devices and asked different questions about the old story. And again, a month later with new questions.

Variables were:
Confidence of the users in their answers,
Usage of device,
also collected user feedback.

Generally, prostethic memory is more accurate and organic is the least accurate. Users thought that ChittyChatty gave them the entire record, easy to scan. The dictaphone was too complex. Pen and paper introduced doubt. With organic it was just a matter of not remembering.

Noticed that organic memory is most efficient, when asked to rate, uses rated ChittyChatty highly. This may be because they link accuracy with efficiency. Pen and paper after a month was considered hard to use because of the gaps in information. (I guess this post will become more unreadable to me over time… bonus!)

Likelihood of use.
People are more likely to use ChittyChatt because it is efficient and accurate. If they were just accurate, but not efficient, people were not likely to use it, consider the dictaphone.

Design Implications:
Prosthetic Memory design needs to focus on more on efficency; it is more important than accuracy. They note a synergy between organic and prosthetic memory and call for a designs that acknowledge this.

Note, the properties of a story vs. the story itself is different. A lecture can come with slidenotes; this kind of memory device is another form of prosthetic memory.

The efficacy of a certain device is different with the kind of data you are trying to remember. Have you looked at the different kinds of things to be remembered?
We did not note a significant difference in the different kinds of information so far.

When you have OM+Dictaphone and OM+Chittychatty is OM better when you don’t have the cognitive overhead of deciding what to record? E.g. note-taking takes work.
Answer: We haven’t analyzed that yet.

Many questions about the laboratory nature of this work and calls to address the: artificial nature, specific data, context, actual goals of people, etc…

People who take notes miss things. If they missed those same things in writing on ChittyChatty, do you have evidence that they were still able to retrieve.
Answer, people took different kinds of notes because they knew that ChittyChatty was also recording the work. Note that people with just notes reconstructed the story from their own experiences.


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Filed under CHI, CHI2007, Memory making, ubicomp

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