Notes and rosaries

I had trouble connecting to the internet while I was up at Thought Bubble. Besides snatched moments on Leeds Central Library’s computer and a bit of 3G I stayed pretty much unconnected throughout, foiled by hotel Wi-Fi and fictional ethernet cables.

That meant that research and social networks were fine, but things like draft emails, starred massages, Dropboxed docs and etherpad-style text interfaces were well out.

And that’s how I make a lot of my notes now. Scattered .txt files flung throughout the internet.

I wouldn’t mention it, but there was a lot of talk about print and digital throughout Thought Bubble, a lot of talk about notes and texture and The Feel Of Things. But for every scrap of paper I have with an idea scrawled in pen I’ve now got five scraps of digital detritus. Just as disposable, just as significant, just as hard to replace.

On returning from Leeds I found my FRSTEE waiting for me. FRSTEE was built by the folks at RIG, and it’s a little snowman ornament that uses your Twitter data as the basis for its shape and details.

It’s not unrelated to the things I couldn’t access. I like the idea that toys like FRSTEE might evolve into rosary-like totems of notes and scribblings, cairns for the pathway your digital notes might be mapping. There’s a space somewhere between the back of a train ticket and the innards of an Oyster card that offers us room for such fragmentary reminders of the things we ought to remember.

James has talked about this in relation to ebooks

These records—souvenirs—are important because they serve as touchstones, aides memoires, and visual quantifiers. They remind us of where we’ve been, keep experiences in our minds, enable us to learn from them through reinforcement.

…but I honestly didn’t get what he meant by that until I found myself reaching for a textfile I couldn’t access, in a library filled with dusty hardbacks and microfilm.

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