Some thoughts on keeping track of things

At the Custom PC Christmas lunch the other week, we ended up chatting about when we first came to regard internet access as an essential component of a PC. For me it was fairly late, as it took ages to get a broadband connection set up when I came to London after finishing my MA … (I remember having to let the BT engineer into the basement of the building I was living in to do the cabling; to my surprise, the room contained a roulette table and lots of boxes of beer and spirits – no wonder the owner of the shop on the ground floor was so reluctant to give me the key…)

Anyway, while net access was/is a big deal, I don’t think it is the change itself; it’s the conduit for the real changes, one of which will be this idea of always being on, and from this, a loss – or perhaps not loss, but a change in what’s considered private. When you use your PC to play music for instance, and it’s connected to the net, you can keep track of all the songs you’ve played via a service like Last.FM. I still have to manually upload my photos to Flickr, but if my camera had WiFi, it could do that more easily. This is the kind of data I don’t mind sharing; it’s stuff I want to share, and that I would, in the past, have shared in a more ‘analogue’ way – showing prints of my pictures to people when they came round, telling them about new CDs I’ve bought. This blog, too, is playing its part in recording things;  although I do occasionally write longer posts (like this one), most of the posts are short and sharp, written quickly and simply, and intended, primarily, to keep track of things; links, articles I’ve written, and books I’ve read. As much as people like to play up the ‘old vs new media’ aspect of the web, I think the biggest changes it makes (or will make) won’t be to the media world, but to people’s lives. The web’s most amazing potential is not to do with media or content, but is to do with community, with the links it makes. Links between people and other, links between people and events, links between people and their things, between, ultimately, people and their lives.

It’s something I’m interested in, so I’ve got myself some reading to do about it; I have two starting points, one a book called ‘Everyware‘ by Adam Greenfield, which is very directly about always-on computing and networked lives, and ‘The Human Touch‘, by Michael Frayn, which might initially seem only tangentially related to the topic; it’s philosophy, filtered via literature, but it’s about (so the reviews tell me), how the imagination constructs the world – a very fitting theory for an always on, virtual world…            

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