⌘-F the World

For the most part information technology enables communication across large gulfs of space and time, but it has also had unintended side effects that have changed the way we interact with our ten-foot or so radius of personal space. By virtue of being portable cellphones are also losable, but but virtue of being callable they are findable. So the refrain of the early 21st century has been, “I can’t find my phone–can you call it?” This has become such second nature that I feel an occasional flicker of confusion when I remember that the same strategy doesn’t work for keys, wallets, shoes, and glasses. I shouldn’t though, because unlike those other household items, being findable is a core aspect of a cell phone’s functionality.

I also find myself wanting to be able to locate material objects–an item in a grocery store, say–by hitting ⌘-F. Mostly I realize that this is just an unwarranted extension of a computing metaphor into the physical world, but some reflex arc in me has sincerely come to associate knowing the name of a thing with being able to make it appear. Occasionally the modality of stuff offers an advantage over machine-managed information (say you’re trying to find the first mention in a novel of a minor character whose name you cannot recall; you’re out of luck on a Kindle, but with a paperback you’ll likely have some sense memory of approximately where in the physical book they appeared), but for the most part computers win the indexing challenge hands down, because computers process language, and an index of the physical world is what language is.

This entry was posted in Mermaids, Those that have just broken the flower vase. Bookmark the permalink.

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