Time Geography (RL253)

This page contains some very valid points hidden in a lot of banter

Looking for a time geography app

John is a time geographer, rather than a historian. The word "Historian" is too broad and has become meaningless, because it is culturally co-opted by everybody who reads America's Civil War magazine. As a time geographer, John always thinks in terms of: What was happening simultaneously at this moment? How did this fit into a social timeline in this area and in this wider area? What is affecting this period that we are not examining, because we are focused on the history of this time? For example, you can't have a history of Germany without having a time geography. What Germany is doing is not independent of what France is doing in any moment of it's history. What France is doing is a response to what is happening socially in Paris at the time. What is happening socially in Paris at that time is reacting to what is happening in London at this time. To bring geographical knowledge of time to bear, you need to consider it both side-to-side, but also into the depth of it. John is always trying to construct things within 4 dimensions in his mental imagination.

At a certain point, John was using his calendar as a personal time geography tool. To remember and catalog important dates, he would scroll back and make entries at points in time in his Apple Calendar long before he even started using it. He tried to use the little colors, like for example everything in yellow is something that happened to the Marx Brothers or everything in green is on a timeline relating different guitar companies to one another. Now John has like 50 calendars, 48 of which are time geography calendars. He never looks at them and he can't easily access all the data he mistakenly put in there back when he couldn't think of a better option. He doesn't know how to get it out or even if he got it out, he wouldn't know where to put it. He needs a special tool that is not made to schedule meetings for next week, but to handle time geography in a fashion like the famous info-graphic of Napoleons invasion of Russia: a visualization of time, distance and size all together. John wants the ability to do that within both physical space and notional space.

For example, the television debut of the film MASH happened on Sept 13, 1974, John's sixth birthday. This is an absolutely useless fact, because at the time he was not conscious of MASH being on TV, but what was it that he was doing on his 6th birthday? Now he has to dig through his files, like what was happening in Watergate on that day! John's birthday is an important flag planted in the sand every year. September is kind of a street corner in the calendar year, like a Waiting for Godot park bench: It is autumn, you are watching the year turn and it is a nice time, but it is also the 13th, which means that school has already started, but it is not close enough to Halloween to make it feel Halloweeny and it is not summer anymore, even if it sometimes is warm. John always has to count. Was he 5 or 6? Was he in Mrs. Christ's class, was he in Ms. Langford's class?

John has photographs that he wants to put into that tool. The data is already in the Apple calendar and there is a tool in Google Maps to plan trips that he can use to document trips after the fact. He should have let his dad fill in some gaps while he was still alive. When exactly did his dad wrap his Jaguar around a tree? It was in June of 1956. Now he got nothing! His Uncle Jack always replies that he doesn't remember. John's mom is still around and still acute and he can still sit with her and work all this stuff out. A lot of the available data about John's family is the result of his mom's grandmother doing genealogical research at a time when you had to write letters to the county clerk of the neighboring county and they would send you back some papers. She had written a bunch of stuff in the back of the family bible and that family bible became the jumping-off point for a whole historiography of their clan on that side. Thank God for it! Now John wants that in six dimensions on his phone, is that too much to ask?

One thing John wants to put in the time geography app is where they were living at what time. He wants to note down all the significant dates of his mom dating Bobby somewhere between 1974 and 1977. He remembers this only very amorphously, because it was before the time he was conscious of calendars. There is almost no thing that happened or happens or will happen that John doesn't want to see on a calendar at some point or another.

Is there a word for an app that is just populated by other apps, like an over-app that takes the skill-sets of 5 different apps, all trying to make commerce, and unbeknownst to them combines them into an actual resource that is doing some deeper thing? This does absolutely exist and for example John's calendar or Merlin's health data is available as a feed.

Recording the variability of John's judgement

John also needs some kind of measurement of his judgement along a constant timeline. There is constancy in your existence (not to get too Kierkegaard)! John knows that he is constant in many ways, but not in every way. His judgement may vary measurably over time, or maybe not. A lot of evidence is presented to him in story form, saying that he is not a person that you can depend on being consistent. On one day he says he is never going to move to Paris and on the next day he might very well move to Paris. Anecdotal evidence presented by people who are just as unreliable and who have an interest in the outcome contains things like "Since you started treating your bipolar condition (see: Depression) with your medicine, something is different about X". John's initial reaction is that the person must have looked at a photograph of Christmas 1976 so many times that they think they remember 1976, but they are only remembering the photograph!

John wants some kind of Fitbit of judgement, a machine on his wrist telling him that he probably would not have had 14 coffees per day in September of last year and the September the year before. It would be a quantum computer with fuzzy action at a distance. What John needs to know is how measurably different he is compared to 5 years ago. Not only how many coffees he typically drinks, but in many other measurable ways. We just did not collect this data at the time, but nowadays we are collecting this data and using it mostly for Amazon Prime deals. John wants access to it! We don't yet have drones shaped like mosquitoes flying around and recording everything so we can tell them to replay the conversation from 11 minutes ago, but even if this would prove that the other person did say X, they will call it "Fake News" and their drone will have a SnapChat filter on it that will make everybody look like a deer, which is super-cute and when they play back reality, they will look like a deer the whole time.

Being yourself in a near-future AR-world

As part of our ongoing cultural sense, there will obviously be a moment in the very near future where my reality will be equal to your reality and it is not important that anybody will be pursuing an actual reality. It will turn out that I am a deer in my reality and I also expect you as my friend to have me as a deer in your reality. It is an identity thing and if you are a respectful person, you will see me as a deer in your heads-up display. But then there will be millennials who don't see species, or libertarians who refuse to see people as anything else than how they appear in corporeal space. Some might also refuse to see anybody differently from a colorised, plastic G.I. Joe. There will furthermore be a culture of people who will only accept a friend request from somebody standing in front of them while looking at each other in AR in the terms that they are dictating. Maybe they have flowers pouring out of their ears in their AR world?

You will be able to set your settings in your AR world, allowing you to disable interactions with anybody in the world who does not accept you as a deer. What if you then walk into the fudge shop and the person behind the cash register refuses to see you as a deer and you are not going to get a job at places? There are going to be communities up in Montana who will see each other through their AR goggles as green army men! People are going to be selecting communities based on what degree they are accepting another person's reality as their reality when they are interacting with them. There are going to be people who's life will be amazingly rich in the sense that they accept everyone's identity as that person prefers. You are going to be living in Comic-Con all the time, which sounds pretty great, but it is going to make it additionally difficult to agree upon a shared reality, because in deer-land some things are simply not possible. If such things happened, it will be less important whether or not they are possible in the other reality. It is for example not possible that a deer would eat a beef, because a beef is not on a deer diet, but if the deer would eat a beef, it would be looking at it through their AR lenses as waves of grain.


One of the main selling points of SnapChat was that they are not recording any time geography and all is just fun. You are sending each other dick pics, or whatever else used to happen on SnapChat before it became a publicly traded company. SnapChat offered contemporary people the option of having the fun of a photograph, but not having it in your shoe-box forever. The problem is that SnapChat already got marginalized as soon as Instagram came in and took their ideas. Somewhere in the near future, all those interactions between a deer, an amorphous gas and an anvil with two small feet are all going to be kept by Jeff Bezos in a salt mine. Merlin wants the opposite of SnapChat! He wants to be able to relive Christmas at the anvil house, that would be really cute! Instead, we are putting our resources into the opposite: Taking a picture of nothing and making it go away. We have to stop destroying the unimportant things! That is the ephemera and we are lousy with it! We are swimming in an ocean of ephemera, but we can't touch it even with our little hoofs.

Particularly from the time when John was young, between the ages of 16 and 26, there are maybe 5 photographs of him in someone's shoe-box. Then there are probably 15 other photographs of him where he is in the background in a photo of two other people, which is in someone else's shoe-box. If John wants to see how he looked at age 24, he does not have many options. He looked awful at 24 in 1000 different ways, but there is no way to see drunk and high John in September of 1993. John was dating a bike messenger at the time.

Recording and altering history

They banter excessively about privacy and about recording and altering history.

You can say "I am a deer" or "I am an amorphous cloud of gas" or "I think that this chemical intoxicant really relaxes me and it is great and it is better than alcohol, no matter what it produces in me. It makes my reality timeline into something else that I would like you to click 'yes' on. Please agree to this new terms. There has been an update to the terms and conditions!" What would happen if you would suddenly become a vaping deer? Can you retroactively change the record so that you always will have vaped? Or more importantly: If you are a deer who has stopped vaping, is erasing history a racist way to put that? What do you call it if you say that you are still a deer, but you no longer vape? Please update accordingly, click for terms and conditions, please remember to like and subscribe! It is going to be very difficult if you spent large portions of your life as the vaping deer and now part or all of your lived experiences (like John and the alcohol) will depict you as the guy who used to vape, but who doesn't talk about it. John has never met a person who used to vape and doesn't want to talk about it, that is just in the nature of that game!

If your avatar for 15 years of your life would have been a little deer nose with big bloodshot eyes and a tiny little vape sticking out of your deer mouth, but then you quit vaping, do you really think that changing your anime icon back from the deer who vapes will be changing history? Well, you will have that option, but that will screw up everybody else's timeline! Here's the thing: If you have a shoe-box of photographs sitting around with big red bloodshot eyes and you look like the guy from 4chan "Best Friend Charlie" (the best meme ever), then you can go back and wipe it and say that you now work for Raytheon. You can say that you are a very straight edge deer and you are going to back-wipe, but Bezos has all of that in a salt mine, and then you will realize that you can only wipe the vape off your deer face so far!

It is kind of like Torrents or Blockchains, in some way like Bitcoin, because there is a record that has to be verified across all the different clients. This will all be dealt with by John Siracusa and how he scales up and spins up the entire system. When somebody changes their icon and it has to change everywhere, does that retroactively change MASH in 1974? Zuckerberg is sitting on his toadstool right now with his little bong, talking to Alice in Wonderland, as Facebook, Instagram and all these things are trying to project. It is all about how they are going to sell ads and how they are going to collect your data in order to predict when you are going to need a new pool filter. If you bought a pool filter, people who bought this item also bought seven other kinds of pool filters, which John doesn't think is what's happend. This is what they are trying to use that kind of technology for: They want to predict what you are going to buy next!

Collecting all your data

Facebook and all those people in the data collection spheres are all nearing their 10 year anniversary, so they have 10 years of data on all of us. Apple knows from our phones where we have been every day, what caf├ęs we go to and where our mom lives. Google knows how many times we have searched for "Deer in the headlights porn", but they are all using it in the wrong way. That data is all there: Photographs of us, the worst stuff that we are afraid of putting on Instagram, and we are not conscious of it existing still. You can clear your photo archive off of your Facebook page so nobody ever remembers you were married to Marthy and you will be able to say that we don't talk about Marthy anymore, but somewhere in the salt mines that are owned by Apple there is a giant throbbing red pin that says "MARTHY, MARTHY!" and even if you remove it, there will still be a Marthy sized hole in everybody's blockchain. The North Remembers! What is that going to be like once there will be 50 years of data?

What will happen if everybody starts collecting data? It is going to get super-confusing! It will all be proprietary information, but then a future Siracusa (after the current Siracusa will have transitioned into an amorphous gas) is going to build an overarching architecture that somehow datamines and strips all this data from all these companies and combines it somewhere else where the meme-God is floating on a big chair on a meteor. He is a big meteor God who is somehow not big enough in order not to live on a meteor, he will be talking to the lesser Gods that are mad at each other and and the anvil with the tiny feet walks into the salt mine and says "Clear the cache!" Maybe in that scenario John Siracusa will appear as that little boy (?) Zelda from that game, but the other icons have been a mistake while there has been a cache error and the icons don't show up for them. Then he becomes a deer with a vape pen and how do you deal with that at scale? How do you record the glitch over time, because that is still a part of The Borgia's timeline. It still needs to be in there somewhere, it can't just be a log entry like "oops, we've vaped a deer", but there has got to be a full record of that thing, unless of course it is against somebody's personal ethos and their lived experience is as a deer. In that case they should not even have errors!

The problem is that there are throbbing red pins all over. For example when you go to your daughter's school every day, the pin on the map for that destination gets larger and larger until it says that this is a major destination where this guy goes to every day. When they market fried chicken from the neighborhood gas station to you where you usually stops to get fried chicken, and when they are going to present an ad for this fried chicken to you as though you have never had it even though you have it every week, then they are going to remind you of this. That pin is just a very big pin. Even if your daughter does not go to that school anymore, that pin stays on your map and will be there forever. Somewhere in Apple's time geography, they are never going to let you forget that this pin exists, even if you never go there again. You can't forget it and you can't un-go to that place. If an unscrupulous eleventeenth party gets in there and says "huh" and your daughter goes in there and says that she never lived in Seattle and is reinventing herself as an amorphous gas living in Paris, then somewhere in history 150 years from now, somebody at Apple has the story of John's great-granddaughter and you cannot run from that. The throbbing is something that is out of your control!

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