Brian House - Traditional Forms of Random Access - 1
Brian House - Traditional Forms of Random Access - 2 Brian House - Traditional Forms of Random Access - 3 Brian House - Traditional Forms of Random Access - 4 Brian House - Traditional Forms of Random Access - 5
Traditional Forms of Random Access
MAAJAAM, Estonia
June, 2018

In computer science, “random access” is the logic that says any piece of information should be accessible in roughly the same amount of time. Hard disks, computer memory, even the internet itself work in this way—nothing is closer than anything else. This imparts a sense of arbitrariness to the digital systems we use every day. Behind the scenes, however, engineering both small (the read head of a disk) and huge (fiber optic cables spanning the globe) re-organize physical space to make such a flattening of time possible.

At an old farm in the Estonian countryside, I lived offline but according to random access. I organized the movement of my daily life so that walking between any two sites of activity—eg, the kitchen, the sauna, and the toilet—took the same amount of time. This involved a stopwatch and averaging multiple timed walks between each pair of locations. A manual wheel-chart subsequently indicates the necessary re-routing and allows future visitors to the farm to live in the same way.

On the one hand, doing this elicits the physical and social tensions when human-centered ways of living meet machinic ones. My social life, for instance, becomes asyncronous. On the other, my exercise isn’t about speeding things up, like computation likes to do—taking time reveals much along the way.

Thanks: Timo Toots, Kadri Lind, Marie Kliiman, Taavi Suisalu, Theun Karelse, Cocky Eek.