Monday, 12 January 2015


The Whole Story
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
You're like my yo-yo
that glowed in the dark.
What made it special,
made it dangerous.
Kate Bush, Cloudbusting

When you're using Gmail and send someone a mail saying something like 'The quotation is attached' and you forget the attachment, Google pops up with a wee dialogue saying 'Are you sure you want to send this email? Only you've forgotten the attachment, you dufus.'

Which is sort of cool and, certainly the first time it happens, sort of pulls you up a bit at the same time. This 2008 three-part video series, about inviting Google into your life is, incidentally, remarkably prescient.

On leave in the UK, I started to notice Google doing 'stuff'. I was getting wee notifications letting me know that Google had 'Auto-Awesomed' pictures I was taking on my mobile. But it wasn't until I got back that I got a BlipVert telling me that Google had made me a 'Story'. It was illustrated with a photo I'd taken of my 18 month-old niece.

I clicked on the link and watched with growing, sick fascination as a line on a world map led from Dubai to Heathrow and photos I'd taken - 'moments', apparently - started appearing in a day by day sequence, each locationally tagged and accompanied by a placename and map. Then a red line led from Wales to Hilltown and I got to see all my Christmas snaps, from the present opening frenzy (and subsequent cacophony of not one but TWO Elsa SnowGlow Dolls singing 'Let it go' to the accompaniment of small girls marching around with one hand, for some reason, waving in the air) to walks in the woods, parklands and seaside, including a red line to Castlewellan, where we spent a frozen afternoon getting enjoyably lost in the 'Peace Maze' to be found there. Google had 'Auto-Awesomed' a photo of a duck I had taken, which I had posted with a note (in a slightly scared sort of way) on Google+ - my note had been automatically added to the image in my 'Story' as a caption. Our trip back to Heathrow was another red line on a map before my New Year snaps and then 'The End'.

Like so much Google does, it both impressed and scared me. Even this 1.0 version is pretty slick, but I can see where we're going with this and, well, I'm not sure about it if you know what I mean. Goggles can identify books from their covers, landmarks from their image. Google knows when you were born, where you are now, where you've been - what you're doing and what you like. It can serve you with contextual stuff to enrich your life. It can help you with that illness by inserting itself into your DNA. Google welcomes you to the hivemind. Now, just do your bit to help feed the Queen, drone...

I was still turning this stuff over in my mind when Dina, the organiser of the MENA.Online.Literature.Today conference in Cairo, emailed me my ticket to travel there this weekend (the conference, postponed in December, is on again at the Townhouse Gallery this Saturday & Sunday). Her mail contained little more than 'Attached is your flight' and a PDF from the travel agent with the flight details.

Yesterday I went to Google Calendar to update a meeting. And I found my flight had been added as a calendar event. By Google. From the email content. Airline, flight number, time and booking code all noted.

I am under my desk typing this as we speak. I am dressed in tinfoil and have a colander on my head to stop them reading my brainwaves.

(I may also be doing a little 'I found an excuse to put a gratuitous image of Kate Bush on my blog' dance.)

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