- Aug 2022
The network of trails functions as a shared external memory for the ant colony.
Just as a trail of pheromones serves the function of a shared external memory for an ant colony, annotations can create a set of associative trails which serve as an external memory for a broader human collective memory. Further songlines and other orality based memory methods form a shared, but individually stored internal collective memory for those who use and practice them.
Vestiges of this human practice can be seen in modern society with the use and spread of cultural memes. People are incredibly good at seeing and recognizing memes and what they communicate and spreading them because they've evolved to function this way since the dawn of humanity.
I got stuck over the weekend, so I totally missed Kevin Marks' memex demo at IndieWebCamp's Create Day, but it is an interesting little UI experiment.
I'll always maintain that Vannevar Bush really harmed the first few generations of web development by not mentioning the word commonplace book in his conceptualization. Marks heals some of this wound by explicitly tying the idea of memex to that of the zettelkasten however. John Borthwick even mentions the idea of "networked commonplace books". [I suspect a little birdie may have nudged this perspective as catnip to grab my attention—a ruse which is highly effective.]
Some of Kevin's conceptualization reminds me a bit of Jerry Michalski's use of The Brain which provides a specific visual branching of ideas based on the links and their positions on the page: the main idea in the center, parent ideas above it, sibling ideas to the right/left and child ideas below it. I don't think it's got the idea of incoming or outgoing links, but having a visual location on the page for incoming links (my own site has incoming ones at the bottom as comments or responses) can be valuable.
I'm also reminded a bit of Kartik Prabhu's experiments with marginalia and webmention on his website which plays around with these ideas as well as their visual placement on the page in different methods.
It also seems a bit reminiscent of Kevin Mark's experiments with hovercards in the past as well, which might be an interesting way to do the outgoing links part.
Next up, I'd love to see larger branching visualizations of these sorts of things across multiple sites... Who will show us those "associative trails"?
Another potential framing for what we're all really doing is building digital versions of Indigenous Australian's songlines across the web. Perhaps this may help realize Margo Neale and Lynne Kelly's dream for a "third archive"?
- Vannevar Bush
- Fold (storytelling website)
- user interface
- personal knowledge management
- knowledge graphs
- Kevin Marks
- Jerry Michalski
- IndieWeb Create Day
- The Brain
- associative trails
- third archive
- MIT MediaLab
I like to imagine all the thoughts and ideas I’vecollected in my system of notes as a forest. I imagine itas three-dimensional, because the trains of thought I’vebeen working on for some time look like trees, withbranches of argument, point, and counterpoint andleaves of source-based evidence. Actually, the forest isfour-dimensional, because it changes over time, growingas I add more to it. A piece of output I make using thisforest of thoughts is like a path through the woods. It’sa one-dimensional narrative or interpretation that startsat one point, moves in a line or an arc (sometimes azig-zag) through the woods, touching some but not allof the trees and leaves. I like this imagery, because itsuggests there are many ways to move through the forest.
! Doing the work of linkingideas together, whether in a digital or analog system,seems to be the only sure key to creating connections thatwill allow you to return in the future and follow the sametrail of ideas.
A nod to Vannevar Bush's phrase "associative trails" or a throwback to the much older cultural ideas of memory and orality in the vein of songlines?
link to: - https://hypothes.is/a/bMy1FBM8Ee2K_nOEDpfB_A
One cannot hope thus to equal the speed and flexibility with which the mind follows an associative trail, but it should be possible to beat the mind decisively in regard to the permanence and clarity of the items resurrected from storage.
- Jun 2022
Local file Local file
As powerful as search can be, studies5 have found that in manysituations people strongly prefer to navigate their file systemsmanually, scanning for the information they’re looking for. Manualnavigation gives people control over how they navigate, with foldersand file names providing small contextual clues about where to looknext.6
The studies quoted here are in the mid 80s and early 90s before the rise of better and easier UI methods or more powerful search. I'd have to call this conclusion into question.
There's also a big difference in what people know, what people prefer, and what knowledgeable people can do most quickly.
Cross reference this with Dan Russell's research at Google that indicates that very few people know how to use ctrl-f to find or search for things in documents. - https://hyp.is/7a532uxjEeyYfTOctQHvTw/www.youtube.com/channel/UCh6KFtW4a4Ozr81GI1cxaBQ
Relate it to the idea of associative (memory) trails (Memex), songlines, and method of loci in remembering where things are -- our brains are designed to navigate using memory
- May 2022
Local file Local file
You may find this book in the “self-improvement” category, but in adeeper sense it is the opposite of self-improvement. It is aboutoptimizing a system outside yourself, a system not subject to you
imitations and constraints, leaving you happily unoptimized and free to roam, to wonder, to wander toward whatever makes you feel alive here and now in each moment.
Some may categorize handbooks on note taking within the productivity space as "self-help" or "self-improvement", but still view it as something that happens outside of ones' self. Doesn't improving one's environment as a means of improving things for oneself count as self-improvement?
Marie Kondo's minimalism techniques are all external to the body, but are wholly geared towards creating internal happiness.
Because your external circumstances are important to your internal mental state, external environment and decoration can be considered self-improvement.
Could note taking be considered exbodied cognition? Vannevar Bush framed the Memex as a means of showing associative trails. (Let's be honest, As We May Think used the word trail far too much.)
How does this relate to orality vs. literacy?
Orality requires the immediate mental work for storage while literacy removes some of the work by making the effort external and potentially giving it additional longevity.
- Jun 2021
the idea of an "[[associative trail]]" here brings to mind both the ars memorativa and the method of loci as well as--even more specifically--the idea of songlines.
Bush's version is the same thing simply renamed.
<small><cite class='h-cite ht'>↬ <span class='p-author h-card'>Jeremy Dean</span> in Via: ‘What I Really Want Is Someone Rolling Around in the Text’ - The New York Times (<time class='dt-published'>06/09/2021 14:50:00</time>)</cite></small>
- Nov 2020
It affords an immediate step, however, to associative indexing, the basic idea of which is a provision whereby any item may be caused at will to select immediately and automatically another. This is the essential feature of the memex. The process of tying two items together is the important thing.
What Bush called "associative indexing" is the key idea behind the memex. Any item can immediately select others to which it has been previously linked.
It is exactly as though the physical items had been gathered together from widely separated sources and bound together to form a new book. It is more than this, for any item can be joined into numerous trails.
Although Bush envisioned associative trails to be navigable sequences of original content and notes interspersed, what seems to make more sense when viewed through today's technology, is a rich document of notes where the relevant pieces from external documents are transcluded.
Selection by association, rather than indexing, may yet be mechanized. One cannot hope thus to equal the speed and flexibility with which the mind follows an associative trail, but it should be possible to beat the mind decisively in regard to the permanence and clarity of the items resurrected from storage.
It should be easy to surpass the mind's performance in terms of storage capacity as well as lossiness. It might be more difficult to surpass it in terms of the speed and flexibility with which it "follows an associative trail"