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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Old Ways and Good Days?

I am working on a new article for posting on JD Supra and find myself challenged to locate my source material and quotes, despite the cool technology aids I have on my computer.
I use add-ons such as zotero, pearltrees, read later, amplify and delicious (not all at once...that would lead to chaos), in order to store webpages and snippets of research for later, or to comment on. I extract informational gems I wish to keep together and put them in one location in a google wave for easy retrieval when I'm ready to write on a particular topic.
When first I started, I compared the way that technology enables me to work faster and more efficiently than the days of yore. In pre-digital days one would collect numerous tomes, or pages thereof with the prized information that would form the basis of one's next great discourse. A large table or desktop ( latter not to be confused with the machinery that sits on the top of a desk), was essential to the whole writing process as one had perforce to spread out all the necessary papers in order to organise one's thoughts and information.

Then along came the internet. And then came the more recent advent of applications, add-ons and such, with which to make the internet more easy to use, and use more of it.
The above-mentioned add-ons have enabled me to collect so much information from scholarly and news sources, and it's all stored on one little portable machine. And I don't even need a large desktop (or top of a desk), to keep all the stuff on!
So here I am with tons of research purportedly at my fingertips and it should be a cinch to write an article. Right?
Well, truth be told, I am butting up against the bane of technology...information overload!
To be using that term today is so 'yesterday', I know, I know, but here's the thing:
I am finding that while I can open several windows and tabs with the various sources of information (usually articles, whitepapers etc etc), there just isn't enough real estate on a laptop screen to view it all in perspective.
Woe is me!! I got the smallest one that is not a netbook, in order to tote it around without it steadily becoming heavier, as light things are known to become with distance (ever held a newborn for hours at a time?).
But even if it were a large screen, desktop or laptop, it really would not be able to give me that facility of the days of yore.
You see, it's a matter of being able to put it all in visual perspective. When I had my papers spread out on the traditional desktop, I got a bird's eye view of all the information I had. Somehow seeing it from that overview, makes a difference. It's like looking at a puzzle and seeing where all the pieces should fit. Even though Windows 7 allows me to snap to two screens quickly, and I could open more screens if I wanted to, it's not the same. The screen shots get too tiny to be of any real use. And I have so much information now, that it's quite tedious to go into each source to extract the passages or pertinent parts that I would want to refer to in the article I am writing.
I never thought I would be saying this about enabling technology, but today I am a little nostalgic for the old days and the older ways, when life was much less complex.

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