Monthly Archives: July 2013

“Paris and the Data Mind”

July 26, 2013

A spooky essay from Craig Mod delves into the implications of personal data collection as he tests a pedometer called the Fitbit in the City of Light. He says, “I bought it to understand how devices like this worked. If they worked. What it meant, precisely, for them to work.” Instead of the predictable fading novelty and another gadget cast off after a few weeks, the device took him on a trip through epiphanies of self-preservation and the shifting sense of what it means to be connected — to oneself, others, and the environment. “‘How should I move through the city?’ it continuously forced me to ask myself.”

Photo credit Craig Mod

Photo credit Craig Mod

Active for one person is inactive for another. The only way to understand your definition is to give it personal form. One way to make real such abstractions is to ground them in a number. Any number. Steps work well.

“What kind of day was today?” you ask. The steps answer.

One year ago today

July 16, 2013

Just after I finished rereading Thoreau’s essay on walking (daily, four hours a day, sauntering, sans terre, la Sainte Terre), the guy who works for the pizza place nearby came by to hand out fliers, on which he always personally writes an impersonal message to promote neighborly savings on chicken wings and the like. It was his last stop of the day. He thinks he has walked eight miles by now, so I offer him tea.

He normally walks between six and twelve miles per day, he says, but once he walked thirty-three, from 13 Mile and Schoenherr to 19 and Livernois, or some stretch like that. He used to drive sometimes, but he likes walking, and his boss said that when he hands out fliers on foot, the screen looks like a video game, each address on his path lighting up with pizza orders.

So now he just walks. 250 or 300 miles per month. His shoes look inconspicuously comfortable, unscuffed. I ask if he ever got too sick or injured to walk in his eighteen years of this occupation, and he says no, vehemently, never. He gives me the empty teacup and I tell him to come back to the acupuncture clinic if he ever needs to put up his feet and take a nap. He smiles and walks away.

He might walk to Florida someday; there, “you get a great tan – all seasons!”

I haven’t heard from this character in a while and it worries me. I hope his tan is coming along well.