Sunday, August 24, 2008

Stream of consciousness

James Joyce took a revolutionary step in English literature when he wrote his epic novel "Ulysses". Instead of using traditional narrative techniques he simply wrote down everything that went through the narrator's head, however absurd, unconnected or irrelevant. The technique became known as "stream of consciousness" and reflects the sort of disjointed thoughts that go through our heads all day every day. Imagine writing down everything that comes into your head in a non-stop flow and you get the idea of what some of the narrative in "Ulysses" is like.
I've been looking at some web tools and they remind me of the stream of consciousness concept. So-called micro-blogging is attracting more and more devotees, using applications like Twitter and Jaiku amongst others. The idea is that you can tell everyone what you're doing right now, all the time. You can send in text, voice and video and your friends can follow your every thought and deed through the day. The real charm of it all is that most people can update their sites from mobile terminals and can therefore update their friends as often as they like and easily.
Friends and family can network and keep tabs on each other without the need to find a computer with net access, especially useful when backpacking and such like. These tools are not meant for blogs like this one but quite simply for your digital stream of consciousness in whatever media form you feel like using from moment to moment.
A Twitter log is, of course, hardly Joycean but I'm sure the old master would be fascinated at the ability to record thought and images as and when they happen or come to mind and make them instantly available. Most of what goes on in there is highly personal and probably of little value to anyone but the author and a few friends but somewhere some people must be doing very creative work with this medium.

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