The mnemonic medium gives structure to normally-atomized spaced repetition memory prompts

Spaced repetition memory prompts alone are a poor communications medium, but the Mnemonic medium gives the prompts order and embeds them in a larger whole by embedding them in a prose narrative. This context allows readers to build understanding in an authored, structured manner. When readers return to the prompts, the review is anchored in that narrative experience: Mnemonic medium prompts rely on invoking external experiences (from narrative, from real-world experience). When you answer those questions, you’re recalling the details in the context of the larger narrative.

The narrative also gives the prompts a more salient purpose, which is important because Deep understanding requires (and is a result of) intense personal connection.

See also the discussion in Expanding the scope of memory systems: what types of understanding can they be used for? within How can we develop transformative technologies for thought?

Interleaved practice may help anchor the prompts in the narrative

In Project - spring 2022 demo - a peritextual mnemonic medium and subsequent projects, I’ve been developing a new iteration of the mnemonic medium which emphasize interactions in the marginalia. Naively, one might imagine this design would strengthen the effect I describe in this note: the prompts are more strongly embedded in the prose narrative because they’re appearing immediately alongside that prose.

But these designs also de-emphasize interleaved review (Mnemonic medium prompts are interleaved into the reading experience), focusing on the task of helping readers save prompts they find interesting to review later. I worry that the interleaved review may actually be quite important to the effect described in this note. Without it, the prompts saved while reading may feel atomized, similar to those in downloadable SRS decks: Traditional spaced repetition memory prompts are atomized.


Matuschak, A., & Nielsen, M. (2019 0). How can we develop transformative tools for thought?