Thinking about ‘self’- extending mind and body to incorporate technology

One of my longtime friends and colleagues shared a clip on Facebook from a TedX talk and invited comments. I opened it up a new tab and this morning I had a chance to watch the 15 minute clip. I am writing these details because, if you reflect on my blog you will notice that it is becoming an example of what David Chalmers is talking about in this clip. People do ask me why I blog, and the key reason is that it is another way of using the ‘cloud’ and technologies to remember for me. I can write and reflect on various topics, all relating to my journey in my PhD and life at this time. It is stored in the ‘cloud’ and I can look at it when I need, and access links, and information (like my recipes) when I need them.  In time, I will be able to reflect on my whole journey, hopefully see growth in my writing and ideas as I emerge at the other end of this intensive learning journey.  So I invite you to watch and ponder the clip that got me thinking, thanks to the ‘extended consciousness’ now available via Facebook and my generous friend and colleague.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ksasPjrYFTg&feature=youtube_gdata_player

What did you think? Did David’s metaphor resonate with you? I liked the notebook, it is a reminder that humans have always relied on external storage for ideas and memories. The existence of the smart phone is making the storage of this information more secure (if you sync that is). I know my smartphone has reduced the level of stress in my life, as my appointments, phone numbers and Evernote are input and synced without me having to remember…and should the phone get stolen/lost I have it all backed up in the cloud.

I am also interested in how we identify ourselves using this technology. David touched on the idea that ‘google is making us smarter’. Indeed I feel less pressure to remember the trivia I used to, and know that I can use the expanse of the internets’  “collective consciousness” to find out anything I need to know in a ‘just in time’ capacity. From this paragraph perhaps you can see that I feel connected to and a part of this collective consciousness.  In my emerging self as an academic,  my self as a mother and wife, my self as a teacher, friend, and tatter, I draw on the ‘affordances’ of technology. This means that I use technology (my laptop, smartphone and internet for example) to store, source and synthesise a wide range of things in my life. Years ago I used notebooks and post-it notes, now it is mostly my smartphone, yet all of this has the same end purpose: to store and support my brain in recalling things important in my life.  I wonder how you ‘identify yourself’ using technology? Do they form an integral part of your life or professional identity?

Happy Father’s day to My Dad, WH and all the dads out there

Fiona T

 

 

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Time management: It’s important to have a plan.

Those who have followed this blog for a while will know that I am now studying full time, with a little part time work and my family to organise. As I get busier I find that I am seeking out more blogs to see how other Mum’s (and some Dad’s) manage their time to effectively juggle their lives. Seeking balance is the main theme of these blogs, and sometimes they are successful and sometimes not. I like the honesty in many blogs, and am constantly reminded that we all need to reassess situations when things aren’t working. This term (Ok 2 weeks in) I think my ‘schedule’ is working well…here is why I think it is (and please remember I had a pretty rough term 1, it worked in some ways and other things didn’t)…

I have a teaching background and have learned to work in 45 minute blocks for planning, teaching and correction. While my time at the moment isn’t quite as structured, I do think of my day in blocks of time. Everyday I try to balance my time spent studying, working and ‘playing’.  I think it is quite important to set achievable goals for each day/week, and have found that by chipping away at my goals over the last few months, I have actually completed many tasks before the dates they were due and there has been no ‘mad rush’ to finish things.  There have been other things that have taken longer than I expected too, but it hasn’t been stressful to complete them and because of the way I have ‘chipped away’ I have known well in advance that the timeline I had set was unrealistic, and so was able to adapt this.

I am also using (and advocating) technology to help me use time effectively and reduce double handling of so many things. For example:

  • Party invitations my LT brings home get photographed and put straight onto Evernote, I check the date with my synced Google calendar on my phone and respond as soon as I can whether we can make it so it’s doesn’t get overlooked later in the week when I am working.
  • I am learning to use highlighting on my email and folders and documents I am working with. The colours I use helps me quickly pick up from where I left a project the day or week before. So a document in progress will be green (going), when a document is complete I change it’s highlight colour to orange (nearly done) and when I have printed/emailed/actioned it I change the colour to red (stop work).  This has really helped with a multitude of papers I have been reading and reviewing. I also send a progress copy and complete copy to Evernote for backup, in case my laptop plays up. (Yay Cloud!)

I have planned out a weekly schedule with all the “must-do’s” in it, and have some windows of time to catch up with a friend here and there. I find I work better with this written plan, and think that I need this visual to make sure I do use my time the best I can.

A while ago I came across this blog, how one man organises his ‘space’ to improve productivity. He outlines things like cutting down on time to ‘set up’ for the task, prioritising tasks and also having an idea of things you can do, even if you don’t really feel like it:

How Can I Increase My Productivity On My Side Projects At The End Of The Day When I’m Tired From Work? – Forbes.

Do you have hints/tips on how you maximise the use of your time? Please feel free to share in the comments here, or on the facebook page.

Until next week…

Fiona T

When technology fails or How to “Keep Calm and Carry on”

It would be remiss of me not to mention what happened at the beginning of this week.

I love my little laptop, I joke that it runs my empire!  Everything is on there: photos, my bookmarked cache of web pages, blogs and memberships.  Documents, power points and downloaded prezis I use for my work. Student attendance lists and mark sheets. Email trails for my current projects, our favourite recipes and of course my PhD reading and writing so far.  On Sunday evening I turned on my laptop, well really I tried to turn on my laptop. It was struggling to get to the login page. We (WH and I) tried a number of things to try and get it past the grey screen but nothing worked. WH and LT were worried…I was not.  That’s right, I was not worried…”but you’ve just lost access to your empire” I hear you think 🙂

In truth, I hadn’t lost anything. Even if this laptop (which after 3 days of patient customer support is now working as though the ‘blip’ never happened) never worked again I knew that my triple backup system, including the cloud, had me covered and that everything, bar one document I hadn’t backup for 2 weeks, was retrievable.   You see I use a memory stick, my server drive at work and the cloud to back up to. Evernote is my first back up, as documents are done I send them to my evernote account. Once a week (when I am in at work) I transfer my memory stick contents to my desktop/server.  I will be utilising time machine now too, just to make sure. I also have 6 months of emails are stored on my host’s server, so my email trail for recent projects is still there.

What this ‘blip’ has taught me is that I have the right systems in place for me to ‘Keep calm and carry on’, and I am more determined than ever to ensure I don’t lose access to my recent writings so will make sure I continue to use new (cloud) and old (memory stick and server) technology to support my work.

What sort of things do you do to keep yourself organised, for work, study and family? I would be interested to hear your experiences and thoughts.

Until next week, happy trails

Fiona

Our shrinking world…

We live in exciting times. The world is shrinking! This isn’t due to some complicated physics phenomena, it is due to the internet.

The last 7 days have seen me (and my little blog) make contact with the ‘outside’ world. Thanks to my excitement and the resulting posts about Skype and Evernote, a couple of people out there in the ethers of the internet have found my blog and commented and then promoted my blog on their site, or tweeted about it.  Both Digitwirl and Dr. Vijay Vaishnav have commented on my ramblings and are excited about the possibilities that the internet offers to make our lives easier.

Regular readers may be familiar with Digitwirl from my Evernote review posts.

East is East and West is West outlines how Dr. Vijay is using Skype while he is in America to treat his patients at home in India. Very interesting, and has exciting applications for people in remote sites too.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled blog:

This week I again Skyped with my BB about some work we are doing. It occurred to me that our research work and writing is such a solitary endeavour, and how technology is helping to reduce the isolation we can feel by providing a range  of things, including video conferencing and 24 hour access to the online world for our research.

Having done very little academic research or writing since completing my masters some years ago, I have been re-reading papers from my masters days (yes, physical papers, with hand written notes and highlighting).  I now need to move on from the old papers and start to find more recent studies in my methodological area. Inspired from my Skype with BB on Friday evening I began that very night (after getting LT off to sleep that is) to look for some up to date articles to see how the methodology I am using has developed in the last 8-10 years. All it took was a search on the author and title of my ‘foundation’ article and the word “cited” at the start and google did the rest.  In forty five minutes I had found approximately five recent citations of each of 3 foundation articles. Some are in journals that I need password access for (so at present these are a dead end for me) while a number of others are direct down loadable PDF documents, and others link to current (yes, 2011) blogs from these leaders in my field of research. So now I have a few articles to read and see how they progress my methodology (or not).

I can’t help but think back to the ‘old days’ when research required hours in a library (see my post ‘what does it mean to be paperless‘) and so much leg work, that I now see it as wasted research time. I can’t help but be excited and eager to begin to research and be able to find the majority of things I need quickly and easily. And the best bit is that by saving all this legwork time I hope to always have time to write a post a week on this blog 🙂

So, now the blog is done for this week and I am off to read an article or two now…How does the internet/technology save you time? What do you use that new ‘spare time’ for?

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