My New Old Self was so pleased to receive this response to the recent post on “Paper vs Digital Calendars” – and even more pleased that Fiona Adams was happy for her comments to be posted here.
People in my life who are far more IT-savvy than me have often tried to persuade me switch to an electronic diary, but I’ve worked out a system with paper-based diaries and pages of notes that suits my needs and have never felt any need to change it.
There’s something about the act of writing, in different pens or pencils, and about handwriting that changes size or angle depending on the space available, which helps fix events in my memory in a way that electronic diaries just didn’t on the odd occasion when I capitulated to pressure, and tried them – I don’t come away from the act of typing in an appointment or important date etc with any visual memory of what I’ve just done. In fact, it’s more or less guaranteed to make me forget it completely.
Perhaps that’s because it means there’s absolutely no onus on me to remember, especially not with electronic alarms and reminders to replace memory. But I don’t want alarms bugging me – and I worry that creeping dependence on them would make my already dodgy memory even lazier. The visual cues that come with writing by hand on diaries and calendars seem to active and reinforce my visual memory, which is still pretty sharp.
I think another ageing-related problem with electronic diaries, for me at any rate, is that I’m terrified of being dependent on something that seems somehow so susceptible to accident or loss. No burglar or mugger in their right mind is going to break into my house or my handbag and steal what looks like a scruffy piece of paper – but a sexy phone or tablet or whatever is a prime target. And yes, everything can be backed up in the cloud so calendars are not device-dependent, but that adds a whole extra layer of tasks to the equation. Which I just don’t feel like having to do, or having to remember to do, or having to remember how to do, or for which to remember yet another password. In short, electronic diaries seem to create more work of a kind I’d prefer to avoid.
So my diary is a month-per-page blank Gmail calendar which I print out in January every year, staple together and keep on my desk. I write important and fixed things there – specific appointments, work deadlines, social arrangements etc. At the start of each day I list those on a piece of recycling paper from a pile on my desk, and amplify the list with all the bits and pieces that are ongoing or ad hoc chores rather than diary entries – shopping notes, household admin stuff, general to-do things that I’ve decided to do on a particular day. If I go out, that piece of paper goes with me in my handbag.
Perhaps this makes me a total Luddite but it works for me.
It’s interesting that Fiona invokes the early 19th century word for technophobes who saw technology as a threat to workers. Luddites were named for a mythical king who was said to hang out in Robin’s hood, Sherwood Forest.
The word ”Luddite” continues to be applied with contempt to anyone with doubts about technology… If our world survives, the next great challenge to watch out for will come – you heard it here first – when the curves of research and development in artificial intelligence, molecular biology and robotics all converge. Oboy. It will be amazing and unpredictable, and even the biggest of brass, let us devoutly hope, are going to be caught flat-footed. It is certainly something for all good Luddites to look forward to if, God willing, we should live so long. Meantime, we can take comfort, however minimal and cold, from Lord Byron’s mischievously improvised song, in which he, like other observers of the time, saw clear identification between the first Luddites and our own revolutionary origins. It begins:
As the Liberty lads o’er the sea
Bought their freedom, and cheaply, with blood,
So we, boys, we
Will die fighting, or live free,
And down with all kings but King Ludd!
– Is It O.K. To Be A Luddite? by Thomas Pynchon, New York Times Book Review, 28 October 1984