I wish Ed were coming to Reboot. It's your natural milieu, Ed.
Be that as it may, over a month ago Ed wrote:
Google have recently released their gmail-integrated calendar to a few of their favourite groupies, accompanied by the familiar cackle of gossip and hasty analysis around the web. To sum it up, they've gone for the square box, future-oriented, non-memorable, essentially organisational take on diaries, and dolled it with their signature ergonomic tact.
All of which is rather boring. The google calendar, and this it must be said seems to be typical of almost all efforts currently spluttering to life, doesn't aim to enhance the doing of life. It prefers to pat it, to make it a tad more efficient, to give it a gloss of homeliness.
But incompetent time management is the single snidest enemy to the coherence of a human life. Both the past and the future need to be managed. Goals need to be balanced, people remembered, golden moments preserved, repose bolstered. The fire of local effort needs to be extended so as not to go to waste, and the manifold strands of our different simultaneously enacted lives integrated. What we need is an online interface that has such intuitive mnemonic power that the psychological gap between going about one's daily life and actually being on a computer is dissolved. We don't require the computer to tell us that at 4.30pm tomorrow we're meeting Albert for a meeting, we require our pre-reflective cast-of-mind into what we are supposed to be doing today to be always already organized according to
spatial schemas that can be constructed, nourished and elaborated through a computer. We want to be able to navigate our past and our future in the same breath …
We want to accumulate lives, we'd like our pasts to enter into the present, not standing aside like some kind of decorative but distant relic which we can call upon with effort, if at all, only to feel nostalgia or articulate a fact.
What we require, in sum, is a digital tool that goes parallel with the mind, not orthogonal to it. We don't want to jump out of the present to check what's doing in five minutes by recourse to a computer screen, we require the present to be already infused by the structure provided by what (could be) on the screen in such a way as to change that present. To give it flesh and options.
Diaries which merely prescribe are a green and flatulent shadow of the life-time tools that would merit the term 'notable'. A well-managed calendiary, structured according to the well-worn wayfulness of a virtual and extended network of memory palaces existing at once in mind and on screen, would allow the
collection and projection of a life at once rich in detail and decisively select-ible. It would of course be fully integrated with text-message and movement records, as well as photogrpaphs, people-profiles from phone-cams and credit-card behaviour. (Downside: the fbi/ your mother getting hold of the password).
It would not only enable dynamic decision-making about what to do now, it would provide fascinating and mobilizable information about one's life; it would circumvent the loss of the useful past; it would clarify the present, sheltering it from the disruptions of urge-like 'i must do this-es' that can paralyze spontaneous action by crowding the moment unnecessarily; it would allow one to perceive structures normally too slow to be visible; it would change the feel of the world.
Which I linked with this from Chris Heathcote:
Google, like most others, is fixated on the grid. I don’t think the grid is completely wrong,
but it forgets two things: lives don’t fit into 30 minute blocks, and
humans are fine at dealing with small amounts of complexity. In fact,
that’s the natural state.
Look at anyone’s paper diary and
you’ll see a mosaic of signs and numbers, conflicts, and most of all,
vagueness. Ishness. A day of a shopping list, two meetings, a few phone
numbers, maybe one fixed appointment, an aide memoire, a doodle.
still Outlook clones persist in the perfect rectangle. Start and end.
No ishness. No possibilities. Anything remotely untimely is relegated
to being a ‘day-long event’, and squished into a few lines at the top.
This is the most important space, yet it’s treated as unfortunate
I’ve been boring anyone that would listen about
this for well over a year now. I’m surprised none of the calendar start
ups took the necessary risk and did something different with how events
are stored and displayed.
Memory Palaces. I think I should record here that back in 2003 Ed came in the top 10 of the world memory championships. The USA Memory Championships are closed to non-Americans, but in 2005 Ed took these tests in NY alongside the US competitors and wiped the floor with them. The story was covered by the brother of Jonathan Safran Foer, Joshua Foer, and you can read about it here. Earlier this year (2006), Joshua Foer won the USA Memory Championships. Guess who showed him how?
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