Mnemonic video may present a smoother on-ramp to mass adoption than mnemonic text

As we’ve evaluated paths to ubiquity for the mnemonic medium, we’ve struggled to find a crisp approach to publishing hugely impactful mnemonic texts. To adapt existing canonical works, we must either tackle challenging partner dependencies, or else answer How might we adapt existing texts to the mnemonic medium, without participation of the author?. If we write new works, the mnemonic medium may remain niche for quite some time.

By contrast, YouTube is enticingly disintermediated. Canonical videos are often controlled by a single individual, and creators are likely to be more amenable to experimental media. Videos are already web-first, while texts are still usually print-first, so mnemonic video doesn’t require solving the problems described in Mass adoption of the mnemonic medium seems to require mass adoption of web publishing.

Upgrading digital video is much easier than upgrading books

A “companion reader” mnemonic app for a book has serious limitations: the mnemonic interactions are completely separated from the work itself. It’s not really the mnemonic medium anymore: it’s just organized, contextualized flash cards. But existing video hosts can be upgraded into mnemonic video without those issues. A browser extension can interleave the interactions into videos exactly as we intend. This would mean creators can keep their existing network graphs; they don’t have to change distribution platforms or use completely different tools. Alternately, creators who host videos on Patreon or their own web pages (whether via YouTube embeds or <video> tags) can add a line of Javascript to “mnemonic-ify” those video players—without their viewers installing a browser extension.

The medium benefits from people’s YouTube habits

Mnemonic video, embedded into via a browser extension, affords some unusual new opportunities. Many people view YouTube every few days anyway, so we don’t necessarily have to do as much habit-building around reviewing. If you have review questions due, we could show them after each video you watch, or interleave them into that video’s own questions. If you already visited YouTube regularly, this might mean that you would need no separate review sessions at all: you’d just do your reviews while browsing YouTube as you always do.

The path to mnemonic texts

Mnemonic video has limitations; we’d still want textual media, too. But this approach could represent a powerful awareness and distribution channel. People might commonly get their first exposure to the medium via video, then naturally wish that their texts supported the same features. As mnemonic texts become more common, we could point people to them via mnemonic video.

Last updated 2023-07-13.