My Life in Folders

As illustrated in my first blog post of the semester, I would consider myself the exact opposite of being “technologically inclined”. Before beginning my journey to technological greatness in the beginning of this course, I had very basic skills of computation (I essentially knew how to use Google and Microsoft Word efficiently).

Since then, however, I have acquired many skills with my computer. While I have learned how to navigate and operate advanced computer applications like Virtual Box, Atom, and Omeka, the most groundbreaking skill I’ve learned so far in this class may seem rudimentary. In this class, I have learned how to make and use (wait for it) … a folder.

I will give you a moment to react. Laugh, show it to a friend, become genuinely concerned for my well-being, these are all reasonable responses. However, before taking this class, this is quite literally a skill I did not have and never thought to learn how to apply. Work saved to my computer were regularly titled with “My name, the title of the class I was taking, the name of the assignment, and the date”. All files were simply saved in my documents folder (pre-installed on the computer) and searched for in the search bar every time I needed access to them. While these bits of meta data were beneficial, I was not being as efficient with my computer as I could have been; and that’s exactly what this class, Literature and Literary Study in the Digital Age, was supposed to help me in doing.

To quote Jeffrey Pomerantz in his novel Metadata, “a roomful of books is not a library”. Before my application of folders, my computer’s File Explorer was this roomful of books. Now, I have separate folders for every class I’ve taken, even with subfolders within them to separate and organize different units. This simple skill has made the way I organize my work significantly more efficient and easier to access, similar to the way meta data is categorized in a library.

Technically speaking, this was not a hard skill to learn. My very first Atom journal, titled “How to make a folder in Windows!”, contains literally two steps. The first, “Click new folder tab at the top left for standalone folder”. The second being “To create a folder within a folder, right click on an existing folder, then click new, then click folder”.

Conceptually, however, my application of this skill connects deeply to the topic of meta data and organization. To refer back to that “roomful of books”, a library would not function without methods of organizing meta data like this. In a library, books are shelved in categories like genre, and subsequent sub categories like author, and title. These bits of information in turn creating a call number. This method has been used by librarians for thousands of years, and we would virtually not have libraries without it.

In addition, the skill I learned from learning how to make folders was not simply to press a few buttons to create a folder. It was, in fact, how to apply these folders to my computer’s filing system. With each folder now comes a class name, with each sub folder a unit, and within those sub folders came my work. In essence, I have since created a library of my own works and writing, containing the basic means for a call number, and that’s pretty cool (if I do say so myself).

Besides ease of access on my computer, the application of this new skill has truly affected the way I think in the “big picture”. Upon realizing how much more sense it makes to organize files based on categories of meta data, I have begun to think about what other metaphorical “folders” I could create in my life. The way I take notes has changed, I now outline topics in the form of topic, subtopic, sub-subtopic, and so on. Even the way my drawers are organized have changed. I now have a clothing drawer for just my pants. Within that drawer, a section for yoga pants, a section for jeans, and a section for dress pants. While this may seem insane to some, my life has become organized entirely by meta data, both metaphorically and literally, down to my underpants.

This application of a simple computer skill to my real life is exactly what I’ve come to learn the digital humanities to be. The metaphorical bridge between technology and life as we know it. Essentially, our world is composed of information. In digital humanities, we work to apply this information to ourselves and the human condition. However, without an understanding of simple organizational methods using meta data, sorting and working to understand this information would be fundamentally impossible.

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