In 1917, Buckminster Fuller began to catalog all of his personal documents into the “Dymaxion Chronofile,” a chronological filing system that included all correspondence, newspaper clippings, notes, sketches, itineraries, daily schedules and other documents relevant to his personal and professional life. By the time he died in 1983, the Chronofile occupied nearly 270 linear feet of space. This record of a human life divided into 15-minute increments is now the centerpiece of the Buckminster Fuller Archive at Stanford University.
Whenever I think about the Dymaxion Chronofile, I find myself wondering if there exists a small subset of compulsive hoarders who are both completely functional and meticulously organized.
Although this type of record-keeping may initially seem shocking when one considers the sheer amount of paper involved, many of us might be surprised to realize that we are unwittingly engaged in the same basic undertaking in the digital realm. Today I have 97,839 emails in the archive folder of my mail client. I can easily search through all of them with just a few keystrokes and they occupy just a small fraction of the space available on a laptop hard drive that is roughly half the size of a pack of cigarettes. In fact, it is completely reasonable for me to assume that my personal digital archives will one day surpass the size and scope of Fuller’s Chronofile.
As long as we have tools that enable us to easily organize and manage our ever-expanding personal digital records, should we really worry about the overall size? I’m interested in reading what you think about this question.