[req] Perfect Recall

I have a big prob­lem with keep­ing track of the media I con­sume. With all the albums I down­load and lis­ten to, and all the shit I read online, I’m oppressed by this feel­ing that it’s all just run­ning through me with­out being digest­ed or processed. It’s over-stim­u­la­tion, I end up with all this shit in my head that I don’t know what to do with. I could of course just lim­it my intake, but I’m addict­ed to media and I don’t feel like chang­ing any time soon. Plus there’s got to be a way I can apply all this stuff.

I sup­pose tra­di­tion­al­ly that’s what the blog for­mat is meant for, to just kind of shit out every­thing you con­sume in the form of links and video embeds. But real­ly that’s more like just “tak­ing notes” at a lec­ture with a cas­sette recorder, see what I mean? That’s just tran­scrip­tion. I need some­thing to do with it all. This prob­lem is addressed to some extent by my metic­u­lous music library cura­tion with foo­bar, and my des­per­ate calls recent­ly for some­body to improve on the way we man­age our music.

I think a pre­vail­ing prob­lem is that of lin­ear­i­ty; I can write a post on here, then anoth­er post, then anoth­er, and they appear chrono­log­i­cal­ly in a line. Tag­ging and cat­e­go­riz­ing helps to make the con­tent on here a lit­tle less lin­ear, but it’s still not sat­is­fy­ing enough. I mean what I want is to be able to have some very loose, scrapbook‑y inter­face where I can just kind of swim through col­lages of things: albums, jour­nal entries. Snap­shots of var­i­ous aspects of cer­tain time-peri­ods. Paper is free-form enough to serve a pur­pose like this, but note­books aren’t search­able or eas­i­ly rearrange­able, and aren’t as ubiq­ui­tous as the web.

I actu­al­ly am work­ing on a new cat­e­go­ry in here that will present entries a lit­tle dif­fer­ent­ly, to accom­mo­date the kind of note-tak­ing that I’m talk­ing about, but even that’s too man­u­al. Why can’t I, for instance, while lis­ten­ing to a D+ album in foo­bar, click some­thing that will allow me to leave a note on it? The note will be linked to the album, to the song, to the artist, and to today’s date. Lat­er that note will turn up in search­es, and when­ev­er I focus on this song/album/artist again. There are a cou­ple solu­tions for this but all of them are inel­e­gant.

It’s almost as though this whole par­a­digm of nodes needs to be re-thought. Nodes don’t ade­quate­ly mim­ic the way we think, our brains aren’t that com­part­men­tal­ized. When we are con­scious­ly focused on one thing, our atten­tion is also inad­ver­tent­ly direct­ed towards relat­ed things. For instance, when you think of an apple, you’re not like­ly think­ing only of the qual­i­ties of an apple; a small if unde­tectable part of you is think­ing about Snow White, think­ing about Gen­e­sis, think­ing about pears. And when does some­thing like an apple evolve from a con­flu­ence of impres­sions — their taste, their col­or, their shape — into some­thing as “node”-like as “an apple”? Is an apple cat­e­go­rized as “fruit” (which is itself a sub­cat­e­go­ry of “food”), and tagged as “crunchy,” “juicy,” “sweet,” etc.? Not exact­ly. And not to men­tion “an apple”’s faint asso­ci­a­tions with every expe­ri­ence you’ve had with one. Should those expe­ri­ences be tagged “involved:apple”?

Sim­ply put I guess it’s just a prob­lem of mem­o­ry. When I lis­ten to an album for the first time, for instance, I nev­er want to for­get when I lis­tened to it and what I thought of it. Yet I think it hap­pens more often than not that when I lis­ten to some­thing, I for­get soon­er than lat­er what I thought of it, or even that I lis­tened to it at all.

A real-world exam­ple: I down­loaded the new Evan­gel­i­cals record some months ago. I lis­tened to it once, and from what I can remem­ber, I liked it a fair amount. But I nev­er touched it again. I for­got they exist­ed.

When they opened for Frog Eyes months lat­er, I bare­ly rec­og­nized the name. I seri­ous­ly believed that I had only heard their name, but did­n’t have a clue what they sound­ed like. It was­n’t until I was at the bar order­ing a drink over­hear­ing them play “Anoth­er Day” that it clicked. Since then I’ve lis­tened to the album half a dozen or more times and found that I real­ly enjoy it.

So, that’s a prob­lem. What’s the solu­tion?

I sup­pose I could have rat­ed some of their songs when I first heard them. Look­ing at them now in my foo­bar, I see that “Anoth­er Day” is tagged with 4/5 stars. But when did I do that? I don’t know! I should­n’t have to wor­ry about these things.

What about a world in which, on some day a cou­ple weeks after I first heard that record, I opened my media play­er and it pre­sent­ed me with that album, as if to ask me, “Hey, you lis­tened to this album for the first time a few weeks ago, right after you down­loaded it. You did­n’t rate it; what did you think of it? Want to lis­ten to it now to remind your­self?” It’s not that far-fetched an idea. But, again: media play­ers are large­ly just spread­sheets.

What about all those movies I see thanks to Net­flix? What hap­pens to them years after I watch them? It’s as though I did­n’t watch some of them at all. I remem­ber see­ing Alphav­ille some­time in 2005, for instance, but oth­er than some vague imagery I’ve retained, I have no idea what that movie was like. Should I have writ­ten myself a short review of it after I watched it? Where would I have put it? What is the prop­er recep­ta­cle for that?

Some­how I’ve been trained to think that I should be not only capa­ble of, but in fact active­ly think­ing about every­thing I’ve expe­ri­enced all the time. That’s sick, isn’t it? Is that a prod­uct of the inter­net? Over-stim­u­la­tion? Is per­fect recall too much to ask?