Can we clearly see it all from one spot? In a Wired column, Momus, discusses his pursuit of the absense of western-style storage living. He mentions a typical Tokyo apartment style, in which the center of the room is relatively sparse (object-wise) but the outer edges contain the information-storage of the inhabitants–things like closets of clothes, dishes, etc. The western style on the other hand, I suppose is more likely to be arranged such that objects are placed throughout the living space and the center of a given room may not be relatively clear for, as Momus puts it, “processing”.
This all caught my interest as my home office has been a source of frustration for me lately. It’s small and in spite of my best efforts to adorn it with only a few of the totems I like to have near me while working on my creative endeavours, I think it’s impacting my senses too much, preventing the all-out focus I like to pursue. I’ve been feeling like the key to fixing all that is its arrangement. While I typically dislike metaphors that set human being to computer terminology, this one was compelling. It recalls the expression “out-of-sight, out-of-mind.”
I almost achieved this once. A number of years back, when I moved from the West coast of the US, to the East of Canada, I got rid of most of my posessions and brought only what I could fit in a small VW hatchback. About 70 percent of that consisted of books and CDs. Momus notes the satisfaction this sort of excercise can bring but he also mentions how now, often times, a digital photograph is just as satisfying as the object itself.
Once in a while I get caught up, sometimes obsessively, trying to convert physical objects I own into digital representations so that I can store them on a hard drive and let go of the physical object. Or is that the reason? Maybe I’m just looking for an additional way to preserve them. Maybe their digitization is simply another layer of storage to deal with.
I mentioned my books. Momus’s article adresses books too (in an important way, though differently from what I’m about to say). I know other people for whom maintaining a physical library is very important, sometimes sacred (if you’re a literary sort). I like seeing the books I’ve read stacked around me. I like seeing the ones I intend to read stacked and ready too. Why? Most are not reference books and I rarely go back to them to look up specific passages. I don’t often reread books but I struggle to part with them. I do however, sometimes sit and stare at their spines. Looking from title to title, author to author. I remember what they were about and remember the characters that I lived with while reading them. I remember other things happening in my life during that time. This is in-sight, in-mind. Sometimes it inspires a new path of thinking about something or provokes a creative path. I don’t think this works the same with information stored digitally–where the ready-to-hand is not ready unless we can first envision it as such (onus: us). I suppose the tricky part is figuring out which objects need regular readiness as opposed to those that may be hidden away, lying in wait, for my need.