Fileophilia

An abnormal appetite or liking for arranging items in order for preservation and reference

From 1998, I think

  1. TERMS AND CONFESSIONS
    1. In 2008 the World Wide Web died. This file, specially arranged by Filing & Records Central (hereafter F&RC), attempts to explain why. It all begins with the tremendous rise in significance of FILING.
    2. What was once a tedious and uninspiring office chore has now become:
      1. a state imposed doctrine or dogma;
      2. the national sport;
      3. a metaphysical labyrinth;
      4. the foundation of a major currency.
    3. Its resonance can be traced everywhere and its implications are within everything.
    4. If for any reason you are not satisfied, or find that this file does not meet your requirement, advise F&RC in writing within 28 days. See section 8.3.1 for addresses. The file will then be deleted without charge, and all allegations and claims outlined in section 2 will be withdrawn and denied.
  2. ALLEGATIONS AND CLAIMS
    1. This document makes the following allegations and claims:
      1. By the year 2008 the World Wide Web dies and ceases to be a player in the Information Counter-Revolution.
      2. Paper regains its status as the primary method of information storage.
      3. A new international currency is developed two years after the collapse of the Euro. It succeeds in being truly world-wide and is based entirely on blank and partially blank paper.
      4. The consequences of losing or misplacing files grow more outlandish, culminating in state-sponsored murder.
      5. For children between the ages 4 to 16, 90% of their time at school is dedicated to the memorising of a single sentence.
      6. An ever-increasing number of files are being rendered completely inaccessible, by virtue of their own name.
      7. A Canadian will win Olympic Gold for placing every word in Finnegans Wake in alphabetical order, in under 40 hours.
      8. Tunisia ceases to exist from the summer of 2011.
  3. WWW.RIP
    1. The total number of users on the World Wide Web, including those users who only had access to it’s more reserved and neurotic cousins, the Intranets, had reached 1.2 billion by 2004. The online population remained relatively constant until 2008, when it fell to zero.
      1. To say the number of users fell from 1,217,800,000 to 0 implies no small amount of movement; a fluid yet ferocious decrease from one figure to the other. In reality, however, that was no fall, no plummet, no descent of any kind. Just a click. First one figure. Then the other.
    2. AT 23:41 EST ON 30 MARCH 2008 THE WORLD WIDE WEB DIED BECAUSE PEOPLE FAILED TO ‘GET THE POINT’.
      1. That point being, that if you have unlimited access to any information stored anywhere in the world, at any time (and this was indeed the case in the ’00s), then there is nothing to be gained in actually, physically, owning that information.
      2. That concept was first developed by the financial sector a number of decades ago. Investors and earners alike could be convinced relatively easily that even though they never saw their money being deposited, even though they never witnessed any currency changing hands, their money was nonetheless still theirs. The value remained but the physicality had been lost, or rather had been traded in for what currency had always strove to be: number. Rows of numbers on LCD displays, columns of numbers on monthly, weekly, daily statements. The four sets of four numbers on rectangular slices of magnetised plastic, 54 mm x 85 mm, became talismanic. Cash became extinct through lack of use.
      3. People still had money, but because they no longer mistrusted systems with such Luddite ignorance, they lost the compulsion to hoard paper under the mattress.
      4. This attitude of access-over-ownership should have been transposed to the Web. Indeed, this philosophy was specifically designed with a wired macrocosm in mind; the financial nets were merely interesting and diverting prototypes.
    3. If you have guaranteed access to information, and if you have the://address.of.any/information/out.there, then you have that information. The location becomes the information (cf The filename is the file is the filename; Fractal Filing, section 6).
    4. But no, everybody still wanted to possess, to ‘own’, in the out-dated, cliched, twentieth-century manner, perhaps not trusting the initial provider to keep on providing perhaps not understanding the Net’s inherent fluid nature perhaps still clinging to the metaphor of on-line Library.
      1. They all photocopied a leaf out of the Paperless Office Etiquette Book, which, paradoxically, advocates the ‘more’ mentality;
      2. If a person found a web-site they were particularly fond of, they would replicate it, in its entirety, onto their own (and everybody had a site; not having a web address was akin to not having a phone number). This ‘new’ site was more than likely some other user’s favourite. So they would replicate that, including the primary replication, onto their own. Which in turn was probably someone else’s favourite, so they would replicate that, including the secondary replication and the primary replication, onto their own. Which in turn was … Everybody’s website was on everybody’s website. The entire web was replicated by the total number of users, which created a whole new WWW; a far more banal and repetitious one.
      3. And because it’s been scientifically established that we are inherently insecure; because none of us want to feel left out; because nobody wants to miss anything and let some other gain the upper hand, this ‘new’ new web was replicated onto everybody’s machines again. Again. And because it’s been scientifically established that we are inherently insecure; because none of us want to feel left out; because nobody wants to miss anything and let some other gain the upper hand, this new ‘new’ new web was replicated onto everybody’s machines again. Again. And because it’s been scientifically established that we are inherently…
    5. The web grew exponentially, both in size and banality, until in June 2008 it simply died of boredom. Millions of fearful users sensed something tragic was about to happen. When they realised they might lose all their precious trivia and priceless dog-eared bookmarks forever, they printed out everything they could point their browsers at, in a sustained and prolonged fit of panic. With dire consequences.
    6. Paper was everywhere. Literally. There had never been such a demand; Gutenberg would have been proud. But the world-wide shortage of blank 210 mm x 297 mm pushed up prices to an astronomical level. Blank Paper. Paper money.
    7. BlankA4 (ISO 4217: BA4) is currently a major financial force, a currency recognised the world over. Value is linked with percentage blank thus; 50% blank (blank one side, print the other): an average hourly wage. 100% blank: a week’s wage.
  4. LOST AND FOUND
    1. It might only be dossiers of A4 to some, but if all the documentation referring to, say, your mortgage is put back on the shelf below the correct one, or falls down the back of the filing cabinet, or is left in the merciless hands of a thirteen year old work-experiencer, or just simply vanishes, then there is no proof that you still need to repay it. Ergo, a free house. What could be nicer?
    2. But if all the documentation relating to, say, you – birth certificates, credit checks, electoral history, references, 25 metre swimming award certificate – goes missing? You can imagine the consequences.
      1. In reality this doesn’t happen very often. Latest research put the annual number of people across the EC who had to be “disposed of” because they didn’t officially exist as low as 900,000.
    3. The major casualties of Displaced File Syndrome are the small items; criminal records, shopping lists, VCR manuals etc. The lower the number of documents relating to a matter, the easier it is for them all to be lost simultaneously. People are relatively safe as there can be whole docket-halls of files, of living hypertexts for just a single person, and it takes a considerable amount of effort and commitment to lose more than one room at a time.
    4. The other side of this wandering-file coin is or Replaced File Psychosis.
    5. Citizens can drift contentedly through life for many a happy year, only to discover one Thursday morning a letter from F&RC demanding they acknowledge the existence of a brother they never knew they had, and that they immediately begin repaying the money they never knew they had borrowed from him. And all on the strength of a till receipt and a bus ticket that was discovered behind a fridge.
  5. THE ORDER
    1. Our entire educational structure has been honed down to the finest and most eloquent of points. No longer is there the opportunity to waste precious time and resources in the pursuit of useless abstracts and pointless subjectives, of Individualism and Free Expression. What could be more degenerate? more subversive?
    2. All now is The Order.
    3. All that our children get taught is The Order and The Order is all they will ever need to get along in this brazen new world. It is drilled into them and tattooed onto them (and not always just metaphorically so) from a younger and younger age. A world-wide ‘company-song’ we all recite eleven times a day, until retirement at 85.
    4. The Order, or to give it its correct filename, De Ehorrt, is just a single, seemingly incomprehensible sentence:
      1. A bcde, fgh I jklm; “Nop qrstuv-wx, yz1 234”, 5. 67/8 90.
      2. The pronunciation is unimportant. All that ever matters is the order.
  6. FRACTAL FILING
    1. The World Governments are all currently grappling forcibly, with both vigour and purpose, and yet completely ineffectually with a serious problem. A problem that could become the most dangerous environmental disaster since the hole in the Ozone Layer over Northern Europe was finally filled in with one-one-one-trichloroethane.
      1. This turned out to be a major constituent in Typo-X®, the leading brand of liquid paper, resulting in Norway, Sweden and parts of Finland being entirely removed or ‘corrected’. Everything in these countries; the people, the houses, roads, flora and forna was transformed into a silent, smooth, gloss-white desert. All that remained was a lingering smell of turpentine and the phrase ‘shake vigorously until mixing-ball can be heard’ rolling around our heads, repeating if necessary.
      2. Back then, governments were lobbied and eventually assaulted by scientists, ecologists and chemists demanding something be done. The stone wall they faced in ’03 is now, in ’19, being placed in the path of the metaphysicians. It is not ozone-depletion, acidic monsoons or alkaline snow that threatens all we stand for now, but a far more insidious phenomena.
    2. This document could be seen as a beginning of a fractal file. It uses a very simple indexing system wherein the divided sections are numbered 1 to 8. The sixth section [ 6 ] is divided into five subsections; the third subsection [ 6.3 ] is divided into three ‘sub’subsections. That second ‘sub’subsection [ 6.3.2 ] is divided into two more ‘sub’subsubsections; [ 6.3.2.1 ] and [ 6.3.2.2 ]. The important thing to note here is the content of the brackets. This constitutes the file’s name.
    3. Filenames
      1. The process of dividing and subdividing can be carried on for as long as you need or desire, to produce an immense quantity of filenames. A name is the only requirement a file needs, apart from a physical space within which to exist. Once the file has a filename it can be filed, and you will only ever come across one constraint in generating filenames using the above method, namely:
      2. Length.
        1. The first file reference number, or filename, that was longer than the file it referred to was recorded in F&R Whitney, Oxfordshire in 2006. The filename ran to 7,361 characters. That sounds like a quaint little figure now, but it caused quite a stir back then.
        2. The obvious problem with very long filenames is that they are inherently cumbersome and clumsy. A file with a name running to twelve sides of A4 needs to be distinguishable from another file with a name of equal length, a name that might only differ by one character. Any one character. It would be a simple thing to distinguish between these files thus: File A is the first, File B is the second.
      3. But it is this tiny spark that ignites the fractal fire; files are filed under filenames which in turn are filed under still other filenames, which in turn are filed under … innumerable Filing Halls, each countless square acres, each housing near an infinity of files … files that contain no useful information, other than the filename that that file refers to … an index, one of millions, of an index, of an index……
    4. Or look at it this way;
      1. Fractal Falling
      2. You have been thrown from a plane cruising thirty miles up over a Mandlebrot Fractal. You are falling and accelerating at a rate of thirty two feet per second per second. You have no parachute, yet you will never hit the ground. As you plummet, you would get closer and closer to the ground speeding up to greet you. You will see more and more detail, yet you will never feel it. You would just carry on falling, the ground would carry on opening up before you, offering an end to your perpetual freefall, until hours weeks seconds later and madness finally becomes too tempting and you fall insane instead, not caring about infinities and mathematics, being convinced that you’re a deep blue cushion cover with a broken zip and a small coffee stain.
      3. And so it is with Fractal Filing. The filename of the filename of the filename, filed within the file within the file within the file. The file is there, the primary information is there, but you’ll never reach it.
    5. Our metaphysicians are growing increasingly nervous about the number of previously accessible files rendered completely inaccessible by their own name. They say that given another decade so many files will fall into the FF whirlpool that our society will lack the information necessary for its smooth running. There will be more and more instances of DFS and on a far grander scale, without the equalising instances of RFP.
      1. What would happen if a term’s worth of legislature from the Houses of Parliament vanished? If the Statute Book was lost as nobody knew what it was filed under? If Christmas was cancelled as Santa couldn’t find his list? If every player won all the national lotteries at the same time because nobody could find the file that proved they didn’t? If all those people had to give back their millions, as nobody could prove that they had bought a ticket in the first place?
      2. A lot of financial commentators have put the recent bankruptcy of the pharmaceutical and biochemical arms manufacturing giant McBurghers�� down to a temp in their Seattle headquarters losing the ‘secret-recipe’ dossier for their Large Mcs��. Their share prices imploded to such an extent that it triggered the third Black&Blue Tuesday in as many years, as well as prompting the resignation and public undressing and flogging of the President of the United States of North and South America, Mr James Carrey.
  7. SPORTS NEWS
    1. “Our congratulations go to Canada’s Jonathan Clements, as he takes home an Olympic Gold Medal today, for Endurance Filing. He successfully managed to place, in strict alpha-sequence, every word of the classic Finnegans Wake, by James Joyce.
      1. “And not only was he a staggering 98.741% accurate, but he set a new World Record time in the process; 37 hours, 6 minutes and 51 seconds.
    2. “Quite incredible. And now the weather. Rob?”
  8. GENERAL INFORMATION
    1. Filing & Records Central was declared a city-state in 2011. It is a testament to the power and enchantment of filing that what was once the mortgage filing department in the sub-basement of the fourteenth largest Building Society, can now be classed as a prosperous and self-sufficient city-state.
    2. F&RC is a meritocratic republic with just under a million employee-inhabitants on what was previously Tunisia.
    3. Our e-address is files@central.frc and our telephone number is ++ 7001 + 3613 7.9 81 # 2/43.
      1. You may also write to us at:
        Filing & Records Central
        FR1.6 D769
        41/TS.C4
    4. Please note that the city-state is not open to the public. Business is only done by telephone, letter or email.
    5. Date of print: 25 June 2019

Author: Terry Madeley

I enjoy reading about art and design, culture, data, education, technology and the web. I'm confused by a lot of it, to be honest.

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