How do our engagements with the everyday world contribute to the way we both go about it and think about it? Could such contributions feed back upon and bootstrap our own capabilities, and in part form new and different ways of interacting with the world? The situation of one Patrick Jones asks just these questions, and further seems to be an interesting case study in the on-going debate around the Hypothesis of the Extended Mind (or HEM, for short).
Patrick Jones suffers from the effects of Traumatic Brain Injury, of which there are many causes and effects. In Patrick’s case, he suffers from extreme short-term memory loss. But what is interesting about Patrick is the way in which he has employed Evernote; software that allows users to upload notes, pictures, and documents to a cloud server, which can then be accessed anywhere and at anytime by palm-pilots, computers and iPhones. When Patrick runs into everyday problems, like dealing with email exchanges or attempting to remember what to buy at the grocery, he consults Evernote installed on his iPhone or Mac computer, and searches for relevant keywords and tags to help him connect the dots and form a reliable understanding of the situation he finds himself in. In more philosophical vernacular, without a reliable biological short-term memory system, Patrick relies on a hybrid of internal/external and biological/technological resources instead.
Since its release, the iPhone has managed to take charge of most of its users’ lives, and now it seems it will take charge of their souls as well. Once a simple device that granted you access to phone calls, text messages, emails, social networking and twitter, the internet, weather forecasts, news and sports results, music, photos, books and other reading materials such as comics and PDFs, simple yet surprisingly addictive gaming, organisational tools such as calendars, notes, lists, and memos, and a wealth of other apps including of course the vital ability to turn your phone screen into a visual representation of a pint of beer which slowly empties as you “drink” it, now the iPhone has ascended to the sacred status of a divinely-endorsed religious tool. Where once the inbuilt google maps (complete with location indicator and integrated compass) enabled the iPhone user to navigate the temporal world trouble free and with contemptuous ease, now “Confession: A Roman Catholic App” – developed by Little iApps and released last week – will enable its user to navigate the inner-world of your conscience, leading you to your desired destination sin free and with, well, perhaps not with contemptuous ease, but at least the iPhone’s functionality has made the journey slightly easier.