My So-Called Digital Life (Or My Existential Battle With Digital Clutter)

My Digital Ecosystem

My Digital Ecosystem

In my last post, I talked at length about my tower of digital clutter and how it was keeping me from focusing on the most important things in my life. As I began to take a comprehensive inventory (which you can see in the handwritten diagram above), I had a sudden, powerful revelation.

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No wonder my digital closet was stuffed to the rafters. I came of age in the late-90s dot-com revolution! Mondo 2000, early Wired and forward-thinking intellectuals living on the “new edge” were all part of the zeitgeist. After finishing college in Texas, I couldn’t pack my bags fast enough. I hurtled toward the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley to become part of this new, infinite summer of love. The underground and capitalism had finally come together, and it was all going to be better than a Dave Eggers novel. Ultimately (and quite inconveniently), someone had to pay the actual bills, and all of that came crashing down faster than an effigy on the playa in Black Rock City. However, for those of us with thick skin and a willingness to soldier on through the fog, it was still possible to forge a life for ourselves in a post tech-bubble San Francisco.

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After all, once the issue of survival has been addressed, one must move up Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

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Every single significant thing I’ve done since college has come from the Internet, whether directly or indirectly. My first financed car, my first apartment in Silicon Valley, numerous jobs, my entire career, my wife and my son have ALL been a result of an “online user experience.” That’s a pretty heady thing to consider. In the grand scheme of my life, maybe that so-called “digital clutter” is really something else entirely.

Last week I was reading an article on Salon.com about how Generation X will navigate its inevitable midlife crisis. Everything jolted into focus. My one-time punk rock, damn-the-man, raver, world traveler, underground music-loving teenage self had encountered his first real existential crisis right on schedule.

My recent life has been marked by staggering changes. Within the span of a little more than two years, I’ve lost my father, fallen in love with the girl of my dreams, gotten married, become a dad myself and taken on more personal responsibility than I’ve ever juggled  in my entire life. Over the course of this time, I’ve come to understand that my “digital clutter” is really more of a (cyber) security blanket. It’s my tentative “to-do list.” It’s my sketchbook of amazing, awesome things that I’ll one day do to change the world. It is the fulfillment of a promise that was made when someone read Oh, the Places You’ll Go to me as a child. It’s a myth that’s been perpetuated by my inability to accept physics. I’ve realized that the time of infinite choices is officially over, and it’s actually a bit of a relief.

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While I did at one point work with Elon Musk, the odds are against me ever having a spare three billion dollars and my own rocketship empire. And although I did have some very high profile gigs as a DJ back in the early aughts, I’m pretty sure the window has closed on my ability to make it as an EDM superstar. Oh, and despite my best efforts to pen a novel which would have made me the “voice of a generation,” it seems as if that voice has already spoken and echoed again and again, and alas, the voice wasn’t mine. Believe it or not, this has been the most liberating realization in the world for me.

I’m already doing what I always wanted to do. I just haven’t realized it.

The big takeaway here is that all of my creative pursuits (music, writing and design) are an integral part of my day-to-day life as a digital professional. I’ve been spending my time trying to shoehorn creativity into an old paradigm and it simply doesn’t work. I’m already doing what I always wanted to do. I just haven’t realized it.  Those of us who are lucky enough to make a living as digital innovators are literally rewriting history every day. There really is no limit to what is feasible, but we must take responsibility for bandwidth issues and tending to our own space in the contemporary world. For me, it starts with prioritizing and paring down digital clutter.

Stay tuned…

Personal thoughts on public topics (or why I’ve neglected my personal site)

As most people who are involved in the creation, design, development and consumption of digital content, I find myself overwhelmed by the amount of digital clutter that fills up my life. The most absurd thing about this digital clutter is that most if it is of my own making, as I’m sure it is with many of my colleagues. If I stop a take a quick inventory of digital ecosystem, it breaks down like this: 4 active email address, 1 personal website (you’re reading it now), my business website AgentesConsulting.com, My record label/art collective website Architects and Heroes, my tech blog tech:design (which as of today can be found here), my food blog Friend or Pho?, my facebooks pages: (for my business, my my record label/art collective and my personal), my twitter accounts: (again for my business, my my art/music, my dj/production and my personal) and honestly I know of a few more that I won’t even list here because of the sheer absurdity of listing anything else. I guess this is all to say that I have digital clutter which needs to be addressed. It’s honestly kept me from really focusing on things that are important to me and to neglect so many of my digital properties (including the one you’re reading now) that could really be of some use to others and myself. So, I’ve decide to take-on the task of consolidating, pairing-down and reducing my digital clutter.

At the end of the day, there’s no way for me to simply delete everything and start from scratch, however I am going to begin to document the process here and see where it goes. I’ve recently been inspired by LifeEdited, a site dedicated to living “…with less stuff, space and energy,” to start really looking at where I can reduce. I guess in a strange way the analog has impacted the digital here, since I really began this project by redesigning the physical space of home studio. I will be documenting my progress here, as best as I can, and hopefully as I result I will have much more to maintain what’s really important to me.

NExTWORK Design Package Video with music by Stephen Ruiz

NExTWORK Conference, short clip from M-A-D on Vimeo.

Sponsored by Juniper Networks with Sessions by WIRED and The Economist, the NExTWORK conference took place on June 22, 2011 in NYC. 200 business leaders, academics, futurists, economists and technologists convened for a full day of presentations and panel discussions on issues of networking, “the value, the challenges, the opportunities.”

Their directive was to create an abstract and artistic–but conceptually relevant–opening video to bring attention to the stage and inspire the audience. Our visual solution evokes themes of intersection, progress and exponential connectivity.

M-A-D created the conference videos as well as the information screen graphics displayed throughout the day.

Director/sound editor/designer Erik Adigard, with Patricia McShane, AfterEffects designer Steve Ogden, music tracks from Stephen Ruiz (aka DJ Stephen R) & images from Tatiana Plakhova