How might the mnemonic medium adapt to readers’ differing backgrounds and goals?

Quantum Country assumes that you’ll answer every question. This is a reasonable assumption for an introductory text focusing on platform knowledge: the vast majority of readers will either already know all the material or will need to know basically all of it (The mnemonic medium is particularly well suited to platform knowledge). But this assumption won’t work in many other contexts. Future iterations of the Mnemonic medium will need to become more flexible.

For instance, if you’re writing a large textbook, readers typically won’t read the whole thing—they’ll focus on specific topics. The medium should accommodate selective interest in certain sections or subsections.

And they’ll have different backgrounds; some won’t need all the prompts. If we fast-forward to a future in which memory practice is pervasive, readers will frequently encounter “duplicate” prompts. So the medium must accommodate readers skipping, ditching, or remixing prompts, even if they’re assumed to be “default useful” to others.

In persuasive writing and informal discussion, prompts will have a significantly different role. It may make more sense to make prompts in these genres opt-in by default, rather than opt-out. In this type of piece, the prompts may function more like margin notes—available for interested parties.

See also: How might the mnemonic medium enable readers in genres outside platform knowledge?

Potential solutions

  • In a default-opt-in context, prompts should have a “skip” or “not right now” action. This mechanism can potentially take advantage of spaced repetition mechanics: that prompt may re-appear in a review session in a few weeks. If you “skip” again, it may disappear for several months. This accommodates the need for a potentially-destructive “delete” or “disable” operation, but without making it a high-stakes decision: Spaced repetition can lower the stakes around destructive inbox-maintenance operations
  • In a default-opt-out context, prompts may be presented more like marginalia. It may be better to “fan out” cards in a default-opt-out context (rather than “stacking” them) so that readers can see them all and choose the one or two which seem relevant. It’ll be very tricky to communicate the difference in default behavior here.

Ways in which Quantum Country assumes readers will answer every prompt

  • The progress mechanics center around “percent complete,” and the denominator is the total number of prompts in an essay.
    • Progress is completely stunted if you don’t answer all the questions in an essay: you can’t complete any of the later levels without the in-text level complete.
    • This mechanism could be adapted relatively easily to flexibility at the section level, but it’ll need more substantial changes to accommodate picking and choosing.
  • When you answer a question in an essay, it’s added to your collection, and there’s no way to remove it or skip it after the fact.