The importance of documentation.

I think this post might be a contender for “most boring title in history.”

I figured this subject would be appropriate to cover as my first topic because it directly relates to why I started this blog. Documentation, in its most general sense, is very important to me, and I feel that I do not have enough of it in my life.

The word documentation, insofar as I’ll use it here, encompasses quite a lot. Most generally, it is the organized storage of information for later use. As boring as the word is, with this definition you can see how it would be of utmost importance. Documentation can take on several different forms – papers, notes, pictures, videos, blog posts, email archives, chat logs, etc. This is what “documentation” means to me, and these are its forms. Now I will discuss its significance.

Documentation is our way of coping with the passage of time. If time did not pass, documentation would be meaningless- all information would be there, unchanging, forever. Communication would still be relevant, but I don’t care about that in this discussion. By taking information we have in the short term and recording it in some static, unchanging state, we effectively take a picture of time (whether literally or figuratively) – we capture a moment of information. In such a dynamic world as the one we live in, a moment of captured information can be very important indeed.

I started this blog due to the transient nature of my own thoughts. Every day countless thoughts flow through my head, but without documentation, they simply disappear after a time and I forget. Now the name of the blog might make more sense to you. Well, let’s be honest – it’s actually the name of my favorite Magic card (http://i.imgur.com/Dgwvf.jpg) but I figured it has a philosophical significance as well. Every thought, every image, every data point, every moment might be lost forever unless it is documented. Thus I have committed myself to be more diligent about writing down my thoughts. Since they are often very ripe for discussion, and since I love sharing ideas, I figured blog form would be optimal.

I think I will also try to take more pictures. Sometimes I feel that I take too many pictures, but whenever I look at them I’m reminded of how happy it makes me to see the people I love or the places I’ve been to, and recall how I once interacted with them. It’s a way of improving my own memory, through artificial means. Perhaps I have some inkling of what happened, but without the physical proof, I can’t be sure how much my memory has been distorted over time, and without the reminder I can’t be sure I’ll ever access that memory again.

This is why all documentation exists. If I had a perfect memory perhaps I would not care so much. But as it is, even if I have a vague recollection of how things happened, when I look back at words I wrote or pictures I’ve taken, I’m forced to take things as they really were, and that produces a shit ton of nostalgia. If you think about it, that is the essence of nostalgia – taking a memory at the back of your mind, which has been distorted over time and has lost short-term relevance, and bringing it to light once again. I think this is why we love nostalgia so much. We love remembering things because time and memory are so important. Without documentation, there would be no nostalgia. And what a sad day that would be.

So there you have it. Let the documentation begin.

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    • Steven Davies (Zero)
    • November 16th, 2011

    Hmm, the only really interesting thought I have, is this:

    Nostalgia seems to be a self-driving force, if you happen upon the feeling, it causes you to seek more.

    But what if you were to forget what nostalgia is. The memory of nostalgia would be gone, therefore the need to document would be gone. And then, finally, nostalgia would be unattainable.

    You would stop caring about the past altogether. You cannot feel loss if you never have anything to cause you to remember.

    Ignorance is bliss, and in this case, ignorance does not make you less knowledgeable.

    Without documentation, there would be no nostalgia. And what a happy day that would be.
    ======================================================
    However, time independent thought, such as this entry, or future conceptual entries, doesn’t seem to be subject to nostalgia. If you look back, you will be reminded of the concepts, not the act of writing the blog.

    I am familiar with the feeling of having a thought you don’t write down. It feels like a loss from the present, and a loss from the future. What if that idea, that kernel of thought and (relative) originality, would cause the future to be handled differently because you are reminded of it, or because the act of typing it causes it to be cemented into your memory.

    Well, in this case, ignorance is not bliss.

    And in this case, I very much like this blog.

    • David
    • November 17th, 2011

    I like to see Steven actually online.

    Also, I would like to see an increase in documentation as well as the motivations behind the documentation as well as the emotions that were present.

    In a similar vein, this subject is relevant to why I like Facebook Timeline.

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