Journal technology

When emotions feel too complex, there's always science and technology to fall back on.

One of my own characteristics that I have become increasingly aware of is that I don't lack emotions, but often I need plenty of time to express them in words. Sadly, I can't think of a technology that could help. Or could there be? Let me have a flight of fancy ………

… There could be a range of bio-sensors that could learn about my moods and feelings – an AI system trained with self-reported emotion – maybe also generalising from similar patterns in other people, to help those who are really stumped for finding any words. Another idea that does not sound too far-fetched would be to identify feelings from words written – not just the words themselves (it's not too hard to imagine writers' moods sometimes) but the extra information that can be gleaned from, say typing speed and mistakes made. How about Freudian slips, that would be nice! Quickly deleted and corrected, yes, but the AI keeps the trace and learns from that. Or, I speak my thoughts and feelings into the system, and not only does it transcribe them and identify the speaker as me (I've seen the Otter AI system that Michela Magas uses), but also learns from my tone of voice not only how alert and awake I am – this is very obvious when I listen to voice notes that I have made – but also the tone of voice, the cadence – that can be interpreted by a skilled human listener in terms of emotion or mood, so why not an AI system? And I'm sure that a good, well-trained AI system could have a good guess at how much alcohol or other substances were currently affecting someone's functioning.

Let's try a less future-tech approach, more present and e-portfolio oriented. The system just provides prompts to enter thoughts and feelings. A series of well-crafted prompting questions leads to connecting the current feeling with previous ones, and set it in its likely context. A reawakening of awareness of the original context helps words to be formulated about the feeling, as well as helping to separate the current response from the part of it that is prompted by the past …

But I wasn't really intending to write about that at all. No, the other way that technology ‘helps’, when emotional discourse seems too challenging, is simply in getting away from all that complex emotional realm, and into something that is just complicated, mental, logical, rational. To remind myself that I am good at some things. That I can think and reason.

I started writing this journal at the turn of the year, deliberately avoiding the more complex tech in favour of a minimalist approach – okay, ‘minimalist’ here is a highly relative term – which involves the bare minimum of what is needed. Sure, you could see an absolute minimum as HTML and FTP, but let's allow CSS, counting as so well-established that it needs no justification, and no specialist software. That setup, though, means that I need to do a lot of work by hand that could be automated. I also avoid a whole lot of overhead that is brought in by, say, Wordpress.

Which brings me on to an interesting conversation I had today with Marco Fioretti, of Stop at Zona-M and his own personal web site. He uses Hugo as a static site generator, and I've been looking at those for a few months now, but without enough determination to choose one, install it, and learn how to use it. Maybe I will take another look, though. Marco and I had a good conversation about what technology is useful for what. I don't think Hugo is exactly what I'm looking for, but it's a good prompt. Anything that can trim down the amount of extra time between straight writing and publishing is worthwhile looking at – but for me it's deeper than that. Could a personal journal like this one sit more easily on a wiki of some sort? I've written some more general requirements for wikis for distributed knowledge commons – could this journal sit well on a system that did that? Would it effectively open it up to comment from other writers, whoever they are, without a contextually limited blog post discussion thread? So that's why I'm hesitating before going into a static site generator. Doing it in HTML CSS and FTP isn't actually so burdensome, it's just a little prone to forgetful typos and omissions.

That's not complex psychology, that's merely complicated psychology.

Topics: Complex psychology; Journal writing

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