March 19, 2010
By David McKelvey
Morgan and I are back from Austin, Texas, after a great SXSW conference. We learned much and you’ll start to see changes to some of our materials and applications in the coming months as we employ these new ideas in our work. However, if you want to get a sense of what we saw, I’ve got my sketchnotes posted and Morgan has posted hisphotostream.
Regarding the sketchnotes, I only started doing this at last year’s conference, when the battery life and wi-fi were repeatedly failing due to overuse (they were far better this year) and because it seemed like fun. This year, I sketched every session I attended and enjoyed it thoroughly.
I only picked this up because I saw others doing it, so I’m just following in someone else’s footsteps. This year, I did catch the end of a session on Visual note-taking with David Gray,Mike Rodhe, Austin Kleon and Sunni Brown. Hanging out in the back of the room, sketching the sketchnote session (something interestingly recursive in that) I met Cliff Atkinson, who introduced me to all but David Gray after the session.
It seems the perennial question surrounding sketchnoting is does it help absorb and retain information better than simple note-taking. Sunni specifically asked this question of me and I think I’d have to say it does after you’ve done it for a while, but there was a guy next to me in the session for whom his note-taking style already produced great memory of the information, so maybe it’s not the best choice for him. Since it’s his experience, it would have to be his call.
For me, as I’m sketching, I found that I end up almost never looking up, always listening and furiously sketching. I grab phrases, words, the bits and pieces that make the little imagery I use and hold them in short-term memory as I have time to assemble them into the visual, sometimes losing them to the FIFO process as new ideas flood my system. For myself, I already know that a kinetic action like writing helps with memory, but it doesn’t have to be so visual to achieve that end. What I do really like is that I find it’s a lot more challenging and fun to sketchnote a session, or to convey experience.
All that said, as Morgan and I stood talking with Amber Case (@caseorganic) after Tim Hwang’s session on “What we can learn from kids with homemade flamethrowers” (yes, a serious discussion on genres and memes on youtube), I was inexplicably able to recall detailed information about Tim Hwang’s session from last year on the timing of Internet memes. So, maybe it’s true. Maybe it does help.
Either way — check out our experience.