Friday, April 18, 2008

Self Storage, Life Logging and the Dymaxion Chronofile

From Long Views:

Long Now was invited to be part of the art exhibit “Self Storage” which transforms a storage unit in San Francisco into a library of Ephemera open to the public under the care of a librarian and indexed for consultation and handling.

The project titled Self-Storage was inspired by the historical precedent of the Dymaxion Chronofile, a system that Buckminster Fuller devised to chronicle his life.

From Stanford's R. Buckminster Fuller Archive:
The centerpiece of the collection, in many ways, is the Dymaxion Chronofile, an exhaustive journal of Fuller’s trajectory from 1920 until his death in 1983. Fuller had been collecting clippings and artifacts since he was a child. But in 1917, he began a formal chronological file which he would later call the Dymaxion Chronofile. The Chronofile was a vast scrapbook that included copies of all his incoming and outgoing correspondence, newspaper clippings, notes and sketches, and even dry cleaning bills. Initially, the Chronofile was bound into handsome leather-backed volumes. In later years, to save space and expenses, the Chronofile was simply stored in boxes. By the end of his life, this exhaustive “lab notebook” of his life’s experiment amounted to 270 linear feet.

Fuller intended for the Chronofile to be a case study of his life in context, in which his daily activities were presented in parallel with developments in technology and society. In it, he at once traced the evolution of his own thoughts, relationships, and business ventures; and documented new inventions, trends, and technologies that were emerging on the broader level.

Bucky's is said to be the most documented human life in history.

Over the years I had collected a fair bit of my life's documents and ephemera, but a few hurricanes and floods back in my New Orleans days truncated that effort.

In late 2005, I made it a habit to record every thought, idea, dream, phrase or random fuzzy notion that crossed my mind. I also record every word, name, object, book, work of art or any other item I might be interested in. It's not so much a journal or diary, it's more of a mental scrapbook. It has been very useful and enlightening. (I'm close to filling the seventh notebook.)

On looking back at my entries, two things stand out.

One, there are many items recorded that I am certain I would not have remembered otherwise.

Secondly, the practice has helped to alleviate the illusion of time compression.* Years don't seem to zoom by so fast when I examine my recorded thoughts. It makes me realize how long a year really is and how much one can think and do during that time. It also brings to mind what was going on in my life and how much I have learned in the interim.

I'll never come close to anything that Buckminster Fuller did in that regard, but I can attest that thought and life logging is a good habit to develop. Apart from personal benefits, it could also be quite valuable and interesting to those that come after.

* The other thing I've found to defeat this is novelty. When we are kids, everything is new. Time takes forever. As we get older and fall into patterned behavior, our life tends to go into auto-pilot and this is the big time-killer, literally and figuratively. Apart from slowing the zoom down, trying and learning new things will keep you young, healthy and sane and will fill your time with something worth remembering.

See also

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