/* ---- Google Analytics Code Below */

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Reflecting on the Journal-ist Within Us

I was at Barnes & Noble last week looking through their stock of journals. I was attracted to a leather bound volume with graph-paper pages. The graph paper appealed to my engineering dimension. Perhaps I could use the pages to sketch graphs of interesting relationships? It also made me reflect on the number of times I have kept and have been involved with journals of all types. I kept a written journal from an early age, using it to record plans and thoughts through my university years. Rereading these years later has often been revealing. In college I was a very careful and neat note-taker. Decades of typing have changed that.

An early task in a corporate setting, before desktops were common, was to investigate how formal laboratory notebooks could be recorded and 'signed' using a computer. The simple act of signing such a journal turned out to be an impediment that took some time to solve. A light pen was an early solution. Later, as part of a team looking at artificial intelligence applications, we used bound paper journals to record our notes, seeking to formalize intellectual property results.

When the first E-mail systems emerged in the corporation in the late 70s, I started to use electronic messages, or informal notes to myself (that were also accessible to others) to record thoughts and findings so I could refer to them later. Ironically, almost all of these journals, except a few I printed out, are now gone. Lost to changing computing systems. Hand written journals would likely have survived.

Always had a fascination with the journals of others. From Pepys' diary to the insight gleaned from laboratory notebooks that attempt to trace the specifics of experimentation. As archives, as proof and trails of current and past thinking. An internal need to be a primitive journalist.

I started a corporate blog in 2002. In part for myself, and in part to inform others about my research. Technology had improved to make it easy to share and search this journal. Remembering my lost journals of previous years I carefully backed up the journal, which grew to 4100 posts by the time I completed it. It's on a CD-Rom, which should survive, shouldn't it? I still have punch cards from that era, but nothing to read them on. This blog is the surviving echo of that company effort.

After looking at the leather bound journal at Barnes & Noble for some time I put it back on the shelf. Can I ever go back to keeping a paper journal? Are there advantages to doing that?

No comments: