Sunday, October 08, 2006

The Capturability and Fragility of Today's Conversations

A bit over a year ago, Brenda and I lived across the street from each other. We would go for long walks a lot. And when we went for walks, Brenda was often gracious enough to brainstorm plots and characters for my stories with me.

Now that we live on different continents, we can't go for walks quite as well. Instead we chat on IM a lot. I miss the walks, but at least we can still stay somewhat caught up this way. So today we were chatting and she was gracious enough to brainstorm about the characters of my latest story with me. And I must say that however much I miss the walks and the face-to-face time, it was rather delightful to still get to do that. And it was also delightful to discover how easy it was to highlight the character-related bits of the conversation, copy them, and paste them into my notes for the developing story.

The point of this slightly rambling story is that it's becoming easier and easier for us nowadays to record, reread, reuse, and share info than it ever used to be. And I think this is part of some sort of fundamental shift in our society (though it started around the time people started chiseling things down, it's gotten exponentially faster, easier, more portable, and a greater part of our behavior lately, which is definitely changing things, though I'm not yet sure exactly how). At times (as in the case of my conversation with Brenda), it's quite helpful for creative work as well as other endeavors.

Then again, if you read this article from last week's USA Today (Instant-messaging conversations can easily linger for years...), you'll see that the recordability that was so handy for me today isn't always so nice for senators and others who so easily forget this aspect of today's written media... I was wondering when the courts would catch on to this.

Of course, it's also true that, as the article points out, writing that is easily captured is also quite mutable. And as the article doesn't point out, it is often quite fragile: dependent on quirky hard drives, web servers, etc. for its continued existence. Not to mention the whims of humans who change and/or overwrite their content, both on purpose and accidentally, on an ongoing basis. Which means the capturability only goes so far and we as humans, as well as our innovations, still have quite a few limitations.

That said, I'm pretty darn excited about the character notes.

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