Audio synaesthesia

After listening to a bunch of podcasts on long bicycle rides this summer, I've noticed a weird synaesthesia effect. When I first listened to Jim Gray's discussion of asynchrony I was at mile 23 of this route. When I listened to it again and transcribed the quote for my blog, I saw that landscape again. It works the other way too. If I repeat a route, I remember what I heard along the way.

When I mentioned this to Steve Gillmor, he asked if I'd been listening to Adam Curry's Daily Source Code. I hadn't, but apparently Adam's been playing around with the same effect, inviting listeners to remember where they are when they hear a word, then triggering the association later.

As we start to leverage the audio channel for narrowly-targeted and professionally-oriented information, as well as for entertainment, we may discover -- or rather, rediscover -- deep connections between the oral tradition and the ability of the human brain to learn and remember. Meanwhile, I can't decide what's more strange or wonderful: the fact that I have an URL that points to mile 23 of that route, or the fact that an important idea from Jim Gray is waiting for me when I get there.

Update: According to David Ascher, a better term for this phenomenon is context-dependent memory. Auditory synaesthesia refers instead to cases where another sense, for example taste, is stimulated in reaction to sound.

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