I am a big fan of big questions. I think that sessions like the Game Design Challenge and its "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" cousin - "The Great ILS Challenge"(scroll down, its #800), force us to ask questions about what we can do. I love the Learning Circuits Blog Big Question of the Month (BQOTM) and think that it has really spurred some insightful discussions that might not have occurred otherwise. I do have to say though that the BQOTM has a big brother out there and it asks REALLY big questions.
The Edge describes it's purpose as "To arrive at the edge of the world's knowledge, seek out the most complex and sophisticated minds, put them in a room together, and have them ask each other the questions they are asking themselves." The main way that Edge gets at these questions is ironically enough, through asking their annual question. You can see the past questions here, and if you doubt the bigness of their questions, past ones have included; What is your dangerous idea?, What's you law?, What's your question? and What now?
So that is a long way to get to this - as I was reading this year's entries, I came across this gem from Joseph Ledoux, neuroscientist and author of The Synaptic Self:
"Like many scientists in the field of memory, I used to think that a memory is something stored in the brain and then accessed when used. Then, in 2000, a researcher in my lab, Karim Nader, did an experiment that convinced me, and many others, that our usual way of thinking was wrong. In a nutshell, what Karim showed was that each time a memory is used, it has to be restored as a new memory in order to be accessible later. The old memory is either not there or is inaccessible. In short, your memory about something is only as good as your last memory about it. This is why people who witness crimes testify about what they read in the paper rather than what they witnessed. Research on this topic, called reconsolidation, has become the basis of a possible treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, drug addiction, and any other disorder that is based on learning."
Well that got me thinking.
So I started looking into reconsolidation. Along the way, I found a great journal, Learning and Memory, and a couple of articles (here and here) that to my simple mind seem to be at odds at that I am still working through. The piece that I am sure of though, is that if we are still finding out answers to how something as fundamental as memory and recall works - then ISD as a field must stay intellectually flexible, pragmatically nimble and aware of how developments such as this may very well impact what our best design practices should be.