Sources of Growth for Transactive Memory was discussed in the blog “Wikis.” Larry Sanger, a co-founder of the Wikipedia, has gone on to other projects. Sanger’s concern about the internet harming education was discussed in the blog “Can Transactive Memory Be Harmful?” His current focus is on Its goal is of being a “citizens compendium of everything.” It wants to improve on the Wikipedia concept through the use of “gentle expert oversight.” The encyclopedia will be free, reliable and enormous. Beta version is online,, and is open and available to users. Sanger’s most recent graduate from its beta version is It is a directory of free educational videos for children of all ages. The directory is sorted by subject. Currently more than 11,000 educational videos are offered. These videos are hosted elsewhere on the web.

Sanger’s ultimate internet endeavor is textop .org. This is a set of projects that would organize the information in books, dictionaries, essays, and news articles into a “single outline of human knowledge.” The proposal can be viewed at the website,

It is interesting to compare Sanger’s proposal to some similar earlier historical efforts.   In 1532 Giulo Camillo built a so-called Theater of Memory.  It was a predecessor of post-Renaissance Information Technology, and an early precursor of transactive memory.   Users tunneleld their way through a series of conceptual hierarchies moving from the physical plane of the theater to the metaphorical House of Wisdom, continuing through successive layers of abstraction, and finally arriving at the realm of divine truths.[1]

In the late 1500’s Giordano Bruno developed a memory wheel, which was a complex mnemonic device, so complex that it took 400 years before someone could develop a theory of how the memory wheel operated.  This a description that Francis Yates provided. “The list of images given in the book are marked off in thirty divisions marked with these letters, each division having five subdivisions marked with the five vowels.  These lists, each of 150 images, are therefore intended to be set out on the concentric revolving wheels.  Which is what I have done on the plan, by writing out the lists of images on concentric wheels divided into thrity segments with five subdivisions in each.  The result is the ancient Egyptian looking object, evidently highly magical, for the images on the central wheel are the images of the decans of the zodiac, images of the planets, images of  the mansions of the moon, and images of the houses of the horoscope.  The descriptions of these images are written out from Bruno’s test on the central wheel of the plan.  This heavily inscribed central wheel is the astral poweer station, as it where, which works the whole system.[2]”  Obviously serious dedication was required to master this wheel of memory. 

Shakespeare’s Globe Theater was called the memory theater and Shakespeare is said to have used trained-memory systems.   Francis Bacon included a memory system in his book The Advancement of Learning.  Moreover, in his house in Gorhumbury, he had taken great pains to incorporate a mnemonic system in the lattice of stained glass windows.[3]

[1] Wright, A. (2007).  op. cit.   pp.  122-123.

[2] Yates, F.A. (1999).  The art of memory. London:  Routledge, pp.212-213.

[3] Wright, A. 2007) op. cit., pp 131-132.

© Douglas Griffith and, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Douglas Griffith and with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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