Publication details [#9107]

Randall, William L. 2007. From computer to compost: Rethinking our metaphors for memory. 23 pp.
Publication type
Article in journal
Publication language


This paper introduces the compost heap as a metaphor for autobiographical memory. As an alternative to the computer, such a metaphor, it is argued, comes closer to capturing the dynamics of memory across the lifespan and how it feels to us as we age, particularly memory's narrative dimensions. After citing concerns expressed by psychologists and others regarding computationalism, the paper considers four entailments of the compost heap analogy that may serve, very roughly, as counterparts to such concepts as encoding, storage, and retrieval. They are: laying it on, breaking it down, stirring it up, and mixing it in. The paper concludes with reflections on the advantages of a more organic model of memory and some suggestions for further inquiry concerning issues of interest to the psychology of aging. (Wiliam L. Randall)