In his book The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci(1), Jonathan Spence describes a memory system devised by a 16th century Italian Jesuit priest. Matteo Ricci’s goal was to find a way to store in one’s head the sum of all human knowledge, so he suggested the following idea: Depending on how much one wants to remember, one can build in one’s head virtual urban centers of various sizes. These imaginary cities should be complete with fully furnished palaces, homes, public meeting places and so on.
Each one of these imagined spaces would serve as a memory location to reference a piece of knowledge. It would be possible “to walk” through this vast mental construct to access this or other item or bit of information. Five centuries later, I find Matteo Ricci’s idea fantastically intriguing and completely relevant rich knowledge applications and UXD.
First posted: Wednesday, September 06, 2006