Friday, November 26, 2010

Smatrphones, unfriendly lists and geographical order

How should I organise my DVD collection? By title? By director? By genre, date or lead actor? Or should I carry on with my present approach - periodically scooping up the DVDs that have accumulated on the floor next to the television and shovelling them onto a nearby shelf?

The same question presents itself when people try to organise papers in an office or products in a supermarket. Specialists in organisation have devised many different systems. However, there is no one-size-fits-all answer, as the system which works best will depend on the individual using it. An excellent book on the subject is ‘A Perfect Mess – the hidden benefits of disorder.’ Highly recommended.

The question is of particular interest to me because, like many dyslexics, my creative, chaotic mind and my tendency to live in the moment lead to a level of chaos that some might find distressing. People of a delicate disposition on entering my office are likely to throw their hands in the air and cry: ‘You’ve been burgled. I’ll phone the police.’

Happily technology is helping with this. The computer allows me to change the way my files are sorted with the click of a button. Alphabetical, by date of creation, by file type, by size. This suits me well, bringing my creative chaos back towards the zone I like to call ‘functional disorder’ (as opposed to ‘dysfunctional disorder’ or ‘dysfunctional order’.) I keep my work space as paperless as possible. A decent shredder helps.

Those who follow this blog will know that a few months ago I bought a Dell Streak smartphone, hoping thereby to drive myself towards a higher level of functionality. I’m happy to report that my experience with it has been excellent so far, helping me deal more efficiently with dates, times, communications and places.

But it is the last of these that has been the revelation. Places. Smartphones are data access / data collection devices. Through GPS they know where they are to within a few metres anywhere on the planet. And the number of people carrying them is rocketing. Put those facts together and a future opens up before us in which location is increasingly used as a means of organising and retrieving information. And THAT is an exciting prospect. For me, anyway. It matches the way my mind works. Data scattered across a map is infinitely more friendly to me than data neatly arranged in a list.

I hope we are on the brink of a more dyslexic-friendly future.


david benfield said...

I like this idea, I like/need lists, We all have so much stuff now, it's hard to keep up. Visual is good for me, and a flat map in my head as well as on paper/screen sounds a faster way to find and make connections sometimes.Have just discovered, been forced into Tagging all my visual art.
I reckon I could love GPS on a phone.
Nice article.

Rod Duncan said...

Thanks David,

I just like the creative chaos of maps and tag clouds far more than the linear order of lists - particularly on white paper.