Touch diary

Jan Chipchase asked me to create a visual diary of everything I touched for a day, much like this chap did.

Technical snafus meant that I only managed it from waking-up to going out of the door to get to work in the morning, but it still made me think more carefully about the qualities of the things I touch.

Perhaps you’d like to do the same thing, then trackback to this post…

CIMG1257 The first thing that gets smacked in the morning is the alarm clock. Actually usually it gets hit around 7.40am as YLE’s capital FM transits from the World Service, and news about Finland in English from YLE24 into the German of Deutchse Welle. This alarm clock has been around with me for a couple of years. The main frustration is that the buttons for switching the alarm off are small and indistinct, compared with the ‘snooze’ button for delaying the alarm for 10 minutes. I suppose this is a good default for encouraging people to wake-up, which is the primary motivation for any alarm clock, rather than snoozing…

CIMG1255Next, it’s a stumble to the shower. It moves in two-dimensions, revolving for temperature and levering for pressure. Early morning muscle-memory seems to have made a simple flicking gesture all that is necessary to get the thing going. The shower control is something that I can operate bleary-eyed and more or less get to produce hot water of the right temperature without a second thought.

CIMG1258Some wardrobe archeology is usually necessary to find something respectable to wear for the day. Sometimes my shelves in the wardrobe are not this messy, but most of the time this would give a pretty representative image. In the dark of the winter, it can be very difficult to do this without switching the lights in the bedroom on (which would wake my partner) and I navigate my wardrobe by touch. Perhaps I should tag my clothing so I can tell what colour it is by touch.

CIMG1261After getting dressed, I usually sit down and grab a little bit of information before I leave. Depending on how rushed I am to get into work, I might grab some breakfast cereal and sit down, or might just watch a tiny bit of news while pulling on my socks and putting on my shoes.

To get to my information-bearer of choice: BBC World, it requires a little bit of effort. I need to switch on the TV with one remote control, flip up the panel that hides the ‘advanced’ controls of the TV, and select the A/V input for the cable box. Then, usually, BBC World is already set as the channel, but if not I might have to fiddle around with another remote.

The TV remote is a little old maybe, and the bigger soft rubber buttons have a patina of use. The cable box remote is smaller, and somehow ‘meaner’ with hard, small buttons crammed onto it mapping to far more functionality. I don’t like using either really.

CIMG1259Again, depending on the time I will check email and a few RSS feeds or forums on the web. This morning I had time to sit with my iBook while the BBC News was on and do just that. Often the two activities complement each other, with a news story on the TV leading me to investigate more on the web, and maybe bookmark a couple of things for reading later. Having wifi in our apartment has radically changed I use a computer, with iBook-information-snacking of this kind where-ever I am in the flat becoming much more the norm, rather than deciding to sit at a stationary PC for a few self-contained hours of use.

CIMG1260On my way out I pick up my essentials from the table by the door. My ID-pass for work, my keys and my iPod. One frustration here is that often I won’t realise that my iPod is low on battery, or even flat before I leave, and only when I am halfway down the street and try to fire it up. Dan Hill proposed an interesting solution for this a while ago…”

CIMG1262Lastly, I pick up my rucksack. It was quite cheap but has two padded pockets for laptops, which I often make use of as I sometimes take my iBook and my work laptop into work. The materials feel rather synthetic and the straps are hard to adjust. It has a handle on top, which I usually grab it off the floor with, which is just that little bit too narrow to hook over anything useful, like the handle of a carry-on case, or the carrier on my bike.

CIMG1263The apartment is on the fourth floor of the block, and the walk down stairs on a sunny day is a small kinesthetic treat, running hand down bannister as the staircase spirals down and round the old lift.

CIMG1264Out the door to the yard of the apartment block, where the bikes are locked. It’s a good solid feeling door handle, that feels positive to hold, but embodies one of my pet hates in interior/architectural design which is the false affordance it gives of pulling against a push door swing. Whenever I come across one of these, two or three times a day, I sigh and think of Don Norman…

CIMG1265Out to the bike, and try and ferret around the forest of wheels to unlock the thing. The lock is slick and the key is small, so quite a fumble to get the thing undone. It’s the coil-type of lock, so often it flicks around a little on release, giving you a smack on the wrist that can be excrutiating on a cold morning.

CIMG1267This morning I was borrowing my partners’ bike; and had to adjust the seat height in order to be comfortable on it. The seat adjustment catch had somewhat rusted into place on the setting that my partner is used to, and so I had to struggle a little to release it, and then found that the shaft of the saddle had lost lubrication elsewhere on it’s length, meaning that adjusting it to a different height and locking it reliably was fairly difficult. Time and use had effectively set the response of the bicycle to that of its prior user.

CIMG1268Finally I get to the outer gate of the apartment block. The catch is fairly small and difficult to reach from on the bike, and the gate swings inward, making the exit from the building a bit of a dance of bike, human and building.

The diary ends here because my camera ran out of battery. The time span of the diary is between around 8am and 8.45am on a monday morning in June, 2004

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