The emergence of literacy allowed humans to systematically and deliberately create, store, transmit, and develop external representations that constituted a gradually accumulating and growing External Symbolic Storage System, ESSS (Donald, 1991). Through interacting with this system the human mind becomes connected with the broader cultural knowledge network. Experts’ well-organized domain-specific memories emerge only through interaction with these external knowledge structures and associated social practices. The ESSS not only involves literate material, but also embodies and relies on various tools (e.g., printing press), instruments (archives, libraries), and associated knowledge practices (training systems).

See also External Memory Field (EXMF), External Representation, Externalization.


Donald, M. (1991). Origins of the modern mind: Three stages in the evolution of culture and cognition. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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