Software and memory

Software is generally a focused, task-oriented affair. Some of the best software does one job and does it very well. However, I’ve also found this approach limiting in some areas. For example iPhoto manages photos fairly well – at least it does until the library exceeds a certain size and the app slows almost to a grinding halt. A more important reservation is that the application fails to manage the surrounding information that is essential to the role of photography as a repository for memory. The layout cuts off any title longer than two or three words and the implementation of the comments box for images reduces the available area for albums. The experience is all too similar to the frustrations experienced with iTunes.

From time to time I’ve wished for an application that might to this end bind, facilitate and share various media more closely together in a more intuitive way. Before it began to metamorphose into something else, this blog was a way of leaving behind, or storing away something for future reference for my family. It’s turned out to be incredibly poor at doing that, at least for the purposes of mining for any specific information. For example, the other day I wanted to reference a past post that I’d written about the problems of CD storage. I couldn’t remember any relevant keywords and I ended up scrolling through the archive month by month until I recognised the accompanying image of a tottering stack of CDs. If I had invested time in implementing more advanced blog software such as WordPress with its ability to categorise information, the situation might be a little better. Having said that I do think that even the most advanced blog software focuses far too much upon the temporal to the ultimate detriment of easy access to archival information. Now is all-important, the past is buried. The effort involved in associating images with text and video in a meaningful way has been pretty unintuitive. The arrival of iWeb, with its ability to ‘raid’ other iApps looks promising, but I’m also interested in Memory Miner:

MemoryMiner is a brand new application that represents the first step towards a long term goal: the creation of the world’s most extensive network of first-person accounts of modern society and culture. Like all big ideas, it starts with a simple premise and a mass appeal for participation. MemoryMiner is an application used to organize and share digital media using a simple, yet powerful metaphor, namely “People, Places and Time.” At its core, are a simple set of tools for treating photos (particularly rare, “pre-digital” photos) as individual frames in a type of endless story board. The story elements are linked to each other by way of annotation layers identifying the people, places, dates and events captured in each frame. As links are made, it becomes easy and tremendously interesting to explore the threads which link people’s lives across time, place and shared experience.

I must confess the video looked a tad complicated, but when I get a moment I’ll download the beta and see whether it comes anywhere near meeting this desire for a more holistic/cohesive approach to preserving and exploring personal histories.

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