How Dixon uses twitter to augment his memory after traumatic head injury

Thomas Dixon

For Thomas Dixon, incessantly checking his smartphone isn’t an obsessive compulsive need like it is for the rest of us. Twitter is his memory. Without his twitter feed Dixon wouldn’t be able to remember what he did yesterday. “I’m always aware of what I’m talking about and who I’m with in the moment,” says Dixon “I just don’t know what happened yesterday or the day before. My declarative episodic memory is shot.”

Dixon was out for a run when he was struck by a car four years ago. The traumatic brain injury he sustained in the accident  that late November afternoon compromised his episodic memory. He doesn’t remember specific, autobiographical details like where he was, who he met, what he ate and the like.

Since the accident, Dixon has relied heavily on his smartphone to augment the part of his brain that is no longer functioning properly. To remember the details he isn’t likely to remember tomorrow – what he was reading about, what kind of coffee he ordered, who he spoke to, even the details of his life (which he tweets about in Korean) – he makes note of all of them on his Twitter account. He can later search, refer and analyze them to remember what happened yesterday. This process of “” – a term coined by Dixon himself – has become a necessary part of his life and has enabled Dixon to function independently.

Being more Productive with Twitter

Eextreme journaling has allowed Dixon to analyze his digital memory and spot patterns. Whenever he’s free, he downloads his twitter archive and opens it in Excel, where he runs searches and performs simple computations. Looking at the data Dixon is able to see how many times he had coffee, visited the gym or gone out for a run. If he sees that he falling behind on his jogging sessions, he makes a decision to go running. Its wonderful how his decisions are influenced positively because of this process.

It’s not just Twitter, Dixon also uses his Gmail inbox and iPhone’s calender for reminders to augment his memory. “I treat my Gmail as another sort of external memory for general notes or meeting notes, summary of research, whatever,” Dixon says. “Email is anything I need to look at, like attachments for work. If it’s going to be more substantial I’ll do it an email, but I’ll mention to Twitter that I was working on the email.

Turning into an Entrepreneur

Thomas Dixon

Because this experience has been so positive for Dixon, he has started thinking about how it can help other people who have the same condition. To this end, he plans to merge his system into a single app to help people with memory issues. The ‘MEmory’ (prounced mee-mory) app is in the initial stages of development. Dixon has already prototyped a logo and sketched out the basic functionality. He is also in talks with many developers about the technical details.

To help others who could benefit from his strategies Dixon is also considering marketing himself as a consultant to them. This would be next logical career move for Dixon, as his recovery-even though its going well- has put him in an awkward position. “They’re putting me in this gray spot,” Dixon said to Fastcodesign “I’m not getting hired because I can’t remember what happened yesterday.

Over the last few years, Dixon’s Twitter account has amassed more than 22,000 tweets. The success of his coping strategies has inspired him to start thinking about dedicating his life to helping others with similar memory problems. His recovery has been so brilliant that he recently recommenced a long-standing tradition of traveling to a different country every New Years Eve.

Source: Fastcodesign
  • Jumbodium

    Very informative post. Liked reading it. Thank u for the share….

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