A sort of diary, a certain form of consciousness

Written on 19th September 2018

Although I’ve been in New York for 19 days, I’ve decided to start a diary. This is partly due to having floating thoughts and observations whizz by me, without any real reason to record them. Some of these things seem a little inconsequential, but I want to keep them to enable me to remember what being here in NYC was/is like and some of them may develop into other ideas.  I may share them at some point, or make a blog or a newsletter of something.

I’ve never written a diary before, so I’m not sure what voice or tone to use. It seems very strange to me to be writing to myself, but I guess this is part of a practice to make me understand myself and the experiences I’m going through. I hope that writing it will help me with the practice of writing itself. To write without a big pressure that it’s something smart or interesting or important to academic life and future of design and design education.

Today Laura mentioned that Corinne had used WhatsApp to record little videos for her family whilst she was abroad, I thought I’d give it a go. I was a little surprised by its effect on me, I instantly enjoyed the process and loved getting little comedy moment from Herbie. It’s been difficult to keep in touch with Herbie since I’ve been here. This is because of a range of different issues, the first is time zone and habit – this is easy to overcome with a routine and all of us getting used to how to deal with me being away. The second is technology. Everyone, when I expressed concern about not seeing Herbie, said “it the 21st century, we have Skype and facetime.”, what they didn’t mention was; you need all your devices up to date, network providers are a bit shit and the technology, although amazing in the global sense of things, is still not fully worked out.

Anyway, I made a little video today and sent it to Herb. I like the process of doing it, I felt I could be a little silly and it was low pressure. It means that as I see something, that I think he’d like, I can make a little video. They instantly make me think of Alice Bartlett and her instagram stories, which I enjoy immensely. It also means that he can understand that I’m thinking of him during my day; not just a small moment, every fews days when we arrange for a big video chat.

The surpising thing about the videos, both making and receiving them, is that they evoke a different, more casual conversation between us. As an 8 year old, it’s quite hard for Herbie to enter the ‘serious chat’ of speaking to me and giving me an accurate, interesting or consistent account of what he has been doing. But making videos, seems to come far more easily… the youtube generation hey!

Today I decided not to go into Parsons. This is partly because I seemed to have replaced my ‘guilt’ of not being productive and working hard at Goldsmiths, with the (incorrect) assumption that I need to be in the office 9-6, 5 days a week. Which is not true. I think a big part of what I’m struggling with is with my expectation to ‘be productive’.

So today, I woke up, went for a run… which I’m loving… but am continuously surprised at how hard I’m finding the first 1km. I soon forget that after it’s over and what to be running again. I guess this is why people say it’s addictive.

I then had a wonder about the neighbourhood that I’ll be staying when Herbie is here. It’s a bit closer to Bedford Av, and therefore lovely. Then for coffee.

I went for lunch to Sweetgreen, a healthy and hip food chain that exists across the city. I ate a good salad, sat outside and people watched. I sat next to a table, three people, two men and a woman. The scene felt distinctly New York. A gruff New Yorker, born in the Bronx, probably in his late forties, tattooed lightening bolts on his forearms. He held himself with the confidence of a man that was very handsome in his younger days. A man who’d been through a lot, a life lived through drink, drugs and sex.

He monologued through the lunch, over a kale salad. He had a range of philosophies about life. About the end of Western culture and how it was important to focus on equipping oneself with the knowledge to thrive in the enevitable event of the apocalypse. I wonder if characters like this are particular to our time, their ‘deep thoughts’ fueled by late night googling and mining the deep dark parts of wikipedia. Or have men like this always held court. Middle-aged men with strong opinions… not sure that that’s a new thing… but the internet has fuelled their conviction in their own ‘reckonings’.

I’m reading a short story by Johnathan Letham called Procedure in Plain Air. Like many moments, when I’m on my own, with space to think, the world’s experiences collide and connect. The story tells of municipal workmen, digging a hole and burying a bound person. As I read, I see similar group of workmen, digging the road. I’m also writing a short story about a municipal worker who is trapped in an algorithmic employment hell… A Singaporean intensely socially engineered nightmare.

After lunch I discovered The West, a cafe / restaurant /bar on Union. It’s possible dangerous, it’s built to be like a ‘hotel lobby bar’ where people can work whilst drinking coffee or beer. It’s super relaxed and lovely. So I had a pint at 4pm, continued to write.

There 10 people in here, all tapping away, working remotely, the digital nomads, working without offices in different ways. There should be a phrase for the coalescence of digital activity that is produced in a specific environment. It would be great to see if certain places (cafes, hotel lobbies, public parks, bars) have different levels of productivity. A digital output to judge the environmental conviviality.

I often get a strange sense of overwhelming intregue seeing other peoples lives that pass me buy. This is focused a bit more in a place like this. What are these people working on; are there great works of fiction in the making, podcasts, code being written that’ll change the world, HR decisions that make peoples lives worse.

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