One of the first analogies we ever had for ‘things’ was a website like a filing cabinet, a place into which stuff could be placed for later retrieval. Today, even our archives need archives (thank you to the kind people, usually PRs, who pop up every now and again and request that we change a broken URL from 2011. Even if we knew how to do this, broken URLs serve as empty manila folders in the filing cabinet; tantalising but infuriating). Writer Craig Robertson’s piece on The Filing Cabinet for Places Journal delves into the history of organising information, a task that swiftly threatens to overwhelm every collective endeavour unless it is snapped into place with logic and consistency at an early stage.
Robertson traces the gendered advertising of early filing cabinets, and how the object came to represent bureaucratic stasis: “Today a cabinet jam-packed with files symbolizes the particular anxiety that is provoked by our awareness that paper records can create an alternative paper-based reality to which officials reflexively defer.” (shades of Douglas Adams: “It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’.”). The piece also delves into the evolution of the ‘desktop metaphor’ in computer interfaces, of which the original filing cabinet was an integral part. His chance discovery of a ‘Mr Google’ from 1921 is also worth a mention. Closely related, ‘The Memex Method: When your commonplace book is a public database’. Cory Doctorow on writing, being online, writing online and how blogs function as a weird in-between space between thought and finished work. Both pieces are well worth a read if, like us, you struggle with the often contradictory values of ‘file and forget’ and ‘write down to remember’.
Some other things. Paintings by Francine Hsu Davis / When Cell Phone Towers Cosplay as Trees, photographs by Annette LeMay Burke, via tmn, which also links to Which country’s Emergency Alert System siren is the most alarming? / a deep dive into a painting by Alice Neel / the ‘opaque industry’ of superyacht design, construction and ownership. Perhaps Bellingcat could look into the fleet allegedly belonging to one Mr Putin, but helpfully ‘owned’ by a bunch of his friends. Related, the story of the vintage yacht Nahlin, now owned by James Dyson. Big boats are shuffled around a very small pool of very rich people / a bit of tech-driven juvenalia, What Three Rude Words? See also Four Kings Maps / upcoming post-rock project by Held by Trees / Behind Closed Doors, a YouTube channel about usually inaccessible architecture presented by Tarek Merlin (via Wallpaper*). Urban exploration with an invitation.