One of the graduate classes that I signed up for this semester is called the Digital Self. Now, one of our first reading assignments was to read Vannevar Bush’s “As We May Think,” who basically imagines a system that is comparable to something like today’s internet or Wikipedia. The catch is he does so in 1945 trying to think of other useful things that scientists could be doing since they weren’t building bombs anymore for World War II. He calls it the Memex. Here’s a nifty little video tutorial of it, for all those visual learners.
Anyway the point is, we were asked to diagram our own information systems, our own personal Memexes (Memexs? Memi?). So we each grabbed a dry-erase marker and section of one of the many white boards that surround the room and got to work. For a couple minutes as I got to diagramming my own personal technological realm, making connections to the flows of information and data storage (both digital and print), I felt like Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting. That is until, I started to take a look around the room at what other people were doing. I saw neat diagrams, thought out processes, meticulous systems for all the information flows that we take in on a daily basis. Mine? My Memex looked like a spider web that been spun right after the spider dropped acid. And then maybe had a beer or two.
I had read Bush before in my Living Through Technology senior seminar in undergrad, the entire class was structured around thinking about technology and the digital age critically. I feel I have proven the ability to analyze and critique our network society, but with that purple marker throwing up arrows on the white board I realized I haven’t found my own way of using technology, perhaps as efficiently as I could be.
Technology is great, it makes my life easier in so many ways. I have my laptop, my iPhone, and until the end of the semester an iPad for the Digital Self class. I have so many venues to access information and store it, but no rhyme or reason to how and in what medium I’ll do it in. Some things might be Dropbox, in the almighty cloud, some things might be in my documents folder, hell, sometimes I might just scribble it down in a notebook for no apparent reason.
The point is, what information or documents I place where is pretty arbitrary. Whatever I feel like at the time is where it goes. My system is a non-system, best described as “ordered chaos.” But as I type this and look around my apartment, it too could be described in the same way. Maybe that’s just me. Maybe that works for me.
However, if I am once again going to be analyzing technology within society, I should take the time and question my own use and relation to it.