In a show&tell talk that is as sweet as it is clever, Kyrill asks how his grandchildren might one day learn about him through digital family heirlooms and offers this unique project as an example.
Kyrill recently acquired his grandfather’s shaving razor and was struck by the connection he felt through the evidence of ownership: the darkened areas, worn edges and other traces of use.
Reflecting on his own mostly computer-based work, Kyrill noted how little of a physical trail he leaves in the world. Could his time and productivity data leave a mark on anything? Does he have a physical object, like his grandfather’s razor, that is indirectly shaped by his toil, besides a dirty keyboard?
Kyrill explored this idea by connecting the time-tracking service RescueTime to a light placed in a box with a house plant that he named Eddie. When he spends time on things he finds personally fulfilling, like working on his PhD, the light turns on and the plant grows. When he’s caught up in other activities, the leaves yellow and die.
The arrangement adds a new dimension to his productivity data. Every couple of days, Kyrill opens the box to water the plant. This ritual provides an opportunity to take stock on how he has been using his time, based on the condition of the plant. Embodied in this living organism is his failures to stay on task and focus on what’s important. Distractions take on a new threat. Rather than just endangering his goals, they now threaten the health of Eddie.
Although Kyrill won’t be able to leave a houseplant to his descendants, it’s a worthwhile meditation on how different modes of presenting personal data can have a profound difference in the way it engages one’s emotions.