Fresh off grad school, I find myself still possessing a strong appetite for reading and note taking. But that is as far as my writing goes these days: notes, in the cloud, left to linger, very little precipitation.
While preparing to write an article for conference in May, I returned to the notes that I’ve kept. I divide my note taking into months so as not to get overwhelmed in the process of note taking. I practice a monthly purging of the tables, a shedding of the mole-skin, notes restart under a new month heading. This helps me to stay forward-looking – feeling free to read, note, and move-on with the sense that somehow, somewhere, all these things will still come together for something.
I want my note-taking light, flexible, and secure. Light and secure means that I’ve mostly abandoned any note taking using pen and paper/notepad. Although I still have a notepad, the last one was lost at an event at The New School. I had a lot of notes in it and the notebook had traveled with me to a few distant shores. It was a great loss. Much of that notebook was a staging ground for what would end up on this blog.
Electronic note-taking in the iOS Notes app ensures that the notes stay independent of the device. This has made the notes more secure, but also in some sense made them seem less present. Currently a file search or a review brings these notes back to presence. But I wish for more, that these notes will come to mean something, will come to some use.
In this monthly post, I plan to explore avenues for the self-reanimation of notes or systems of writing-support that use notes as a key input. Mostly this will be done for myself – to force myself to check my notes at the end of the month and to make at least one little thing of it: a word cloud and a short post.
So, here it is. A word cloud of my notes taken in January 2013 produced in Processing using the WordCram app. As Amber Welch mentions in a post on text analysis, there are options beyond the word cloud. Many are listed on TAPOR – a University Alberta based, digital humanities initiative for textual analysis. Many Eyes is another such portal of text analysis and data visualization tools. The phrase net tool in particular is a useful variation of the word cloud, mapping connections between words.
What I would like to see, however, are tools that respond proactively and passively to notes as they are taken. The above listed tools are better for large bodies of text, literature or records, that one might be researching. Writing-support tools should respond to the notes and the note-taking process – revealing patterns, highlighting phrases, suggesting related resources as they emerge.
Notes from January show: an interest in “big data”, data models, perhaps relationship of these to governance. “Might” and “like” take-up a large part of screen space – infers an interest in potentialities and similitudes perhaps stemming from the more general interest in data. Hacking may relate to the upcoming hackathon in March. “Guilty” is surprising. Returning to the notes, it is clearly tied to my reflection on this quote from Garrett Hardin’s The Tragedy of the Commons:
Paul Goodman speaks from the modern point of view when he says: “No good has ever come from feeling guilty, neither intelligence, policy, nor compassion. The guilty do not pay attention to the object but only to themselves, and not even to their own interests, which might make sense, but to their anxieties” (18).
Right now, I’m feeling rather guilty for not remembering what specifically provoked me to copy this quote. I don’t recall liking the essay, but have to recognize that it was influential. Google Scholar has aggregated 20 000 citations on the essay.
I want to believe in the commons. That freedom in commons is possible. Perhaps it is the sublimation of guilt into its opposite that makes the commons seem tragic. The feeling of irreproachable innocence. Has intelligence, policy, or compassion come from this? Perhaps the guilty can only focus on subjectivities, where the innocent project the detachment necessary for the object to exist independently.
I miss the rain.