Friday 29 June 2012

You can't repossess my memories

Standing around outside our office chatting the other day I was explaining about not owning many things.

Now I didn't mean that in the sense of clothes, shoes or handbags. I am a girl. No. I meant it in terms of the fact that moving house was a simple affair, being as how it involved the back of a Mondeo with the seats down and not a van as has been the case when moving house with groups of friends.

I don't own many things. In fact the things I own apart from the aforementioned clothes, shoes and handbags fall into two categories. Bikes and related stuff and gadgets.

But both of those groups of things are interesting because they are merely tools - tools through which I can experience things.

And so it came to be that I realised that I have nothing in my life which is not either necessary or a tool which allows me to experience something else - the exploration of the mind and the digital world, and the exploration of the body and the physical world.

I strongly believe there is a group of people who could be referred to as 'digital explorers'. They are not the people who create the digital landscape - we leave this to the entrepreneurs.  Instead we are the people who poke and prod the creations of the digital builders. We sign up to hundreds of new shiny services which promise us the equivalent of digital wealth - either time or information management, and our inboxes are littered with nudges to go back to long forgotten failed ventures. We curate content we have discovered in many different ways in a desperate effort to remember the names of all the services we have come across that weren't useful when we found them but might, just might be useful in the future.

We push the edges of things. We use Google fu to make sure we never need to the second page of results - we know it's there but to need it is to fail. We know every mammoth database on the web from IMDB and Wikipedia to the lesser know Urban Dictionary and Encyclopedia Dramatica. We know which sources are to be trusted and which are not and if we're not sure we know exactly which websites will verify for us first.

But it's not just about being connected. It's about not being passive. We don't wait for the information to come to us, we go and look for it. We take joy in finding new people to follow on Twitter because we hate echo chambers and every now and again we like to go off wondering across the spiderweb of who knows who knows who knows who to see where we might end up - or who we might end up talking to, learning from or challenging.

It's the digital equivalent of riding my bike, but I am not the only person who is like this, this behaviour is displayed by very many people. We don't want to create the corridors of power, we don't want to control the internet. We simply want to be free to roam those same corridors, maybe nudging a picture so it is displayed perfectly horizontally as we walk past, perhaps doing a little dusting as we walk through, but nevertheless simply taking it all on, absorbing it all, seeing the patterns, feeling the networks move and swirl around us and using that sub-consciously absorbed information to inform decisions we make on a conscious level.

Some of us even have the audacity to believe that if we look far enough, if we read enough, if we search enough, there truly is nothing, any more, that we cannot learn, cannot teach ourselves, cannot open the doors to nor enjoy the benefits of.

As long as I've got my bike and my laptop/pad/phone, I know life will never be boring. So maybe that's the biggest gift the 21st century can give to you. That your life need never be boring again. 

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