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Gibson, paper, tasks and shotguns

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Oct. 4th, 2008 | 07:54 pm

Bill Westerman on moving from digital to analogue

Suddenly one Saturday morning, I woke up, fingers cramped from tiny little styli and eyes bleary from poking around on those miniscule screens, and set out on a mission to get back to paper. Go analog. Cold turkey style.

I was tired of shoehorning the texture and complexity of day-to-day life into that little block of electrons, the subtleties of real-time prioritization into a tight 1-5 rank order, the margin notes of life into neat little Datebook, Notepad, and Calendar apps. I yearned to get back to scribbles, circles, arrows, and BIG FAT underlines when things were REALLY IMPORTANT.

William Gibson on moving from digital to analogue

I put the shotgun in an Adidas bag and padded it out with four pairs of tennis socks, not my style at all, but that was what I was aiming for: If they think you're crude, go technical; if they think you're technical, go crude. I'm a very technical boy. So I decided to get as crude as possible. These days, thought, you have to be pretty technical before you can even aspire to crudeness. I'd had to turn both those twelve-gauge shells from brass stock, on the lathe, and then load then myself; I'd had to dig up an old microfiche with instructions for hand- loading cartidges; I'd had to build a lever-action press to seat the primers - all very tricky. But I knew they'd work.

I'm not entirely sure that I'm going to abandon the Palm, but, you know, I am a very technical boy.

Sometimes I try to step back a little and imagine what all of my silly fiddling with notebooks and organisation schemes and creativity routines might look like to somebody who has grown up with having to think of ideas not just for fun, but for work too. My childish, or, better, childlike enthusiasm for little "writer's tools" like morning pages probably seems quite naive and comical.

The thing is that it is quite possible to go through life in a role that is technically "creative" - in my case, programming, even if it's not socially treated as "creative" it's as creative as writing ad copy - without having to ever really think things through or come up with ideas beyond the immediate. I might be required to think up a fantastic new mechanism for some subtask but mostly, determining requirements is taken care of (or not) by the project manager and their manager and their manager, and goals are similarly mandated from above.

I've now made a conscious decision not to go back to that if I can possibly help it, and this means I have to learn everything from scratch and come up with my own ideas, most of the time. So really I might well appear naive. But it doesn't bother me, because I know that I haven't just been sitting there watching the Teletubbies for the whole time; I have learnt to do other things during that period. So I can say things like "okay, this entire step can be removed if I just write a daemon to scan calendar entries for this keyword, parse them into a mindmap and upload them - that's easy".

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Comments {2}

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from: infrarad
date: Oct. 5th, 2008 03:07 am (UTC)

I certainly covet your skillset! I'm trying to learn what a grown-up blog is so as to have something to broadcast my superstruct ramblings on. Soon these posts will be mindmaps, which I find amusing.

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from: fridgemagnet
date: Oct. 5th, 2008 09:46 am (UTC)

Oh, superstruct - somebody DMed me on Twitter to ask whether I was doing that... I haven't decided whether or not or what to do to be honest.

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