Map memory

I just took a few recreational minutes to get on GoogleEarth and retrace part of a long walk I took in Dublin the Monday morning after the conference. Down Winetavern Street to the Liffey, along the river on the south side to the next bridge, up Lower Bridge Street up the hill and into the grounds of St Audoen’s church, along the High Street.

It’s an interesting thing to do because it digs up bits of memory that would be totally lost otherwise. I already remembered the church grounds, because I lingered there, but retracing that whole segment of the walk I recognized more nondescript places, like the big busy intersection before you get to St Audoen’s. It’s not particularly interesting, so I wouldn’t have remembered it, but “walking” GoogleEarth I did remember it. It’s an odd sensation.

Strangely enough, I didn’t get it on the part along the Liffey, between the two bridges. None of that came back in the same way. Silly memory – it grabs a dull intersection and misses the whole of the river walk. I know I went there but it’s now just narrative memory, a fact – I went down the hill from one church and up the hill to another and along the river between the two.

Memory is very peculiar.


  1. says

    I’ve read that memories attached to emotions are the strongest. Along with your evidence, that would suggest that a pleasant walk along the river, if it didn’t include some joyous epiphany, would be less well remembered than a characterless intersection full of cars, if for example a vehicle went past you at startling speed and made you jump a little bit.

    Talk about life not being fair…

  2. says

    Heh. Hours after I wrote the post, I suddenly realized that’s exactly what it was. I remembered the big intersection, of course, because I had to cross it. Having to cross it meant I had to pay close attention (Dublin traffic is terrifying). Walking between the two bridges I was on the river side, which means there were no intersections at all, which means I was free to pay a more diffuse kind of attention…which turned out to mean no long-term memory.

  3. otrame says

    You may not remember the details, but you do remember the emotion of enjoying the walk.

    When I am missing my son, I go to Google Earth and “walk” the street where he lives in Birmingham (West Midlands, not Georgia) and down to the train station and then to the city center, to remember the day we went down there, a day I enjoyed very much. I loved my visit. I miss my son. Those are the emotions. Google helps me remember the details.

  4. says

    Ah, that’s sweet.

    And yes, you’re right, I do remember the enjoyment of the walk. That’s part of the narrative memory. I have a little bit of generalized sensory memory of it too, I guess…but it’s vague. I remember that I admired the Four Courts, but I don’t have a visual memory. I forgot to pay the right kind of attention, it seems. Usually I remind myself, and I forgot for that stretch.

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