Digital analog dilemma

2022-06-30 @Blog

How did writers manage prior to computers? That is, to reference existing material, drafts, lists, ideas, research? Lots and lots of paper shuffling? Notebooks, folders, paper catalogues, manuscripts? More office real estate devoted to the above? More dependence on libraries? The aid of personal assistants, editors, publishers?

And the mere inability to digitally search text? That gives you an idea of how simplified the procedure has become. And the travel opportunities? To be a nomad while managing all this content compactly, seamlessly?

Not that travel didn’t previously intermingle with creation. Inexhaustible mounds of renown poetry and prose has seen germination across exotic wastelands: lacking immediate access to the archives, dictionaries, thesauri and the gregarious supply of electronically available world literature.

Which also suggests the extra amount of mental bookkeeping. One spent significant periods in appeal to sheer memory (and mnemonic strategies) and independent cognition. Today one can largely offload that portion to computerized aid. And one does.

I frequently face a dilemma. A part of me seeks computerized aid for the tasks I’m engaged in. Then a part of me feels exhaustion: some not easily explicable combination of atrophy and saturation.

If there’s any certainty, I tire of the display all the while wanting to strike the keyboard. Mind you, my setup isn’t all that eye exhausting: the terminal, mostly light-grey text, black background, as optically forgiving as I can fathom, font size notwithstanding. And yet even here I feel a measure of stress: some physical, some otherwise.

Does that imply a craving for implantation, one that augments cognition with all the aforementioned capacity, save for the eye strain? Had that been the sole superficial factor, none of the secondary, tertiary, quateary side effects, then sign me up.

But there you have a lie. I don’t really welcome or take interest in the direction of cybernetic biohacking. And that dreadfully saturated expression, ‘sign me up’? Be gone. Or does the sullenness stem from the lexicon rather than the inadvertent ideas hereby presented?

Sometimes I feel exhausted from screen interaction after an already lengthy session; sometimes from the day’s onset. Sometimes I yearn for the old, analog work environment, yet unwilling to sacrifice the GNU shell, Linux, VIM, grep, bash, Tmux.

Maintain the sufficient quantity of printed material for immediate workflow? Not the most tractable of ideas. Especially come the ephemeral (and the highly stochastic) stages of creativity: the short works of poetry and prose, the parallel and the ever shifting pipeline that seems to rely as much on the physiologically proper conditions as on randomness.

It goes to say, I find myself referencing and engaging a severe amount of digital material within a short frame: without the internet, without distractions, strictly my own offline catalogues, drafts, and research, that in itself already complicating any offload effort.

The power of a tablet computer combined with an E-link display might sometimes ease matters. But will it really? Or marginally? For what ultimately is the source of frustration? Or am I in a mood to vent fruitless complaints?

I met a traveler earlier on, not of nomadic breed, but impressive nonetheless, an entire item of wheeled luggage devoted to books and related office materials. Sometimes I too entertain a similar idea. But what will it really accomplish?

And what will it compromise? This I can address with greater ease. The lighter footsteps. The freedom of peregrination: immediate and long-term. I certainly couldn’t mount a motor taxi with wheeled luggage, or walk 3km without bursting a vein.

The weight already accumulates. What started with the compactness of nearly a single, personal-item size backpack, now includes the hammock (the cheap one that surprisingly endured five boat trips and the added weeks of rusticity), the thermos, the plastic dishware I need toss asap, and eureka: a towel, what is this, the hitchhiker’s trip across the galaxy and whatnot?

On the other hand, it makes sense to carry lots of poetry: compact, high encoding complexity, great reading bang for the buck (another alarmingly cliché expression). Some weeks past I became desperate enough to fill five notebook pages with favourite Ezra Pound short poems, cursive illegible, much shorthand. Another hyperbole. Only two pages. Reasonable cursive. Limited shorthand.

Questions, comments? Connect.