I’m building a virtual memory palace

Back before I became a business journalist, I was a war correspondent. And I accumulated a few psychological scars as a result. In the past, I deal with some of my ghosts by lighting candles in church — I’m baptized Russian Orthodox — but multiple relocations and other changes in my life have prevented me from keeping that up.

An advisor recently suggested that I go back to the practice of lighting candles, and I’ve been thinking about how to achieve that in a practical way.

Ideally, I’d like to have a little private chapel — on a mountain top, say — where I could commune with nature, find clarity and peace of mind, and light candles to the memory of those I have lost.

The trick, of course, is doing it on a writer’s budget.

And then I remembered the candle texture and scripts available on OpenSim Creations. (Download script here, candle sculpt here, flame texture here, tutorial here.) Plus, I already have a mountain on my private region in OpenSim.

I could put candles in a little chapel on this mountain, and they would burn forever, and I could visit them at any time. Or just feel calmer knowing that the candles are burning.

First step toward building a personal memory palace.

And there are other things I’d like to remember, as well, personal things that I’m not going to go into here.

Over time, what I would have would be a virtual memory palace. This is a technique that folks used to use to remember long stories, back in the days before everyone could read and write. You build a palace in your mind and associate particular memories with places in the palace. Stage magicians use this to memorize long lists of things — and I recently saw it mentioned on The Mentalist (Season 2, Episode 11: “Rose-Colored Glasses”).

OpenSim is a perfect environment in which to build a memory palace. (Instructions on how to build a memory palace are here.) You probably don’t want to have a lot of folks accessing it, so running in on a home computer or USB stick is fine — and free. Or, if you only visit it occasionally, an on-demand service like Kitely would work well, as would the $5.95 regions from Nova.

I used to spend more than that on buying candles.

I wouldn’t put a memory palace in Second Life — $300 a month is a bit too steep, and Second Life isn’t going to be around for ever. With OpenSim, I own the region, and have the OpenSim software on my own computer, so I’ll be able to access the memory palace at any time.

OpenSim also offers advantages over other creative platforms in that it is three dimensional, and easy to build in. You could draw a memory palace on paper or in a drawing program, but it wouldn’t have the same emotional impact, the same sense of being there.

maria@hypergridbusiness.com'

Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China.

  • now that's a pretty nifty use of OpenSim =)

  • Dear Maria,

    I just would like to say that I'm feeling extremely honoured that you're using (part of) the candle I made for this. Thank you.

    V

  • P.S.: Btw, I don't know if you know William Gibson's text "memory palace" (which is quoted at the end of his movie "No Maps For These Territories"): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLmgrYS781A

  • Link to Sim-on-a-Stick: http://simonastick.com/

  • Michael Joyce

    Dear Maria,

    I believe we are following the same general path. I love the way you have described your Memory Palace.

    As I have been getting on in years, I have had some of my family ask me to jot down my experiences in the entertainment industry so future generations of the family could have some idea just what I “did”. I on the other hand have been digitizing mountains of other personal and family history and have now been trying to not only figure out a way to organize the “mess” but also perhaps bring some sort of context to the entire pile of memories. Your article perfectly summarizes where I am heading.

    With my Sim-On-A-Stick I have been building a number of different environments which reflect the best places I have experienced. Sort of my own personal Disneyland. I have been designing spaces for various collections of family pictures, home movies and audio. I can make spaces for written stories and even 3D versions of situations where some of these stories took place.

    Not only can I enjoy all of these experiences and memories, but perhaps future generations of my family will also get a sense of what my journey was all about. Not being a talented writer, especially in autobiographies, the OpenSim allows me to get most of what I want to say down in a personal and understandable form. I have been even toying with the idea of using NPC bots to be able to help tell the story or maybe answer questions.

    As you indicated, it can be all on a “stick”, private and accessible. (Remember to make backups and the information can be permanent)

    The OpenSim really is offering me the best creative outlet for my time.

    As always, thank you for your thoughts on the subject.

  • Todd Bendler

    This is great. I am currently putting the final touches on an app where you can upload personal images and create a 360 degree immersion scene of your personal memories. I see a good fit with your idea. Experiencing 360 degree imagery is very satisfying and real. I made a scene for my wife with images of her mother we lost to cancer and she visits her often in vr. I created a scene with revolving images audio and I even pulled an old voice mail off her phone so she can hear her voice. Her reaction I didn’t expect but to me it was priceless. Cause I didn’t tell her I was doing it. To say the least I see a use for this in many practicle and realistic healing situations and I am currently looking for any interested people to collaborate with.. But think of the possibilities revisiting a vacation. Or a wedding or the birth of a child all things possible and much cooler in vr.
    Anyways I’m babbling awesome job keep on thinking my friends
    Todd