The Garden and the Stream

Essay (very aesthetic reading!) The Garden and the Stream: A Technopastoral

Short version

This experience has radically changed me, to the point I find it hard to communicate with a lot of technologists anymore. It’s like trying to explain literature to someone who has never read a book. You’re asked “So basically a book is just words someone said written down?” And you say no, it’s more than that. But how is it more than that?

This is my attempt to abstract from this experience something more general about the way in which we collaborate on the web, and the way in which it is currently very badly out of balance.

I am going to make the argument that the predominant form of the social web — that amalgam of blogging, Twitter, Facebook, forums, Reddit, Instagram — is an impoverished model for learning and research and that our survival as a species depends on us getting past the sweet, salty fat of “the web as conversation” and on to something more timeless, integrative, iterative, something less personal and less self-assertive, something more solitary yet more connected.

Things in the Garden don’t collapse to a single set of relations or canonical sequence, and that’s part of what we mean when we say “the web as topology” or the “web as space”. Every walk through the garden creates new paths, new meanings, and when we add things to the garden we add them in a way that allows many future, unpredicted relationships.

People say, well yes, but Wikipedia! Look at Wikipedia!

Yes, let’s talk about Wikipedia. There’s a billion people posting what they think about crap on Facebook.

There’s about 31,000 active wikipedians that hold English Wikipedia together. That’s about the population of Stanford University, students, faculty and staff, for the entire English speaking world.

No feeds

So here I am hooking up people's RSS/Atom feeds to my reMarkable #e-reader. As if the latest things they have to say are the most important?

In retrospect, it looks like a tragic attempt to get myself to actually read a bit of all these awesome folks' blogs.

I don't need a list of "great feeds", I just need a list of "great people", and their homepages. When will I mine their content to learn from it? I don't know… But when I do, I'll be able to write my own notes that link back to them where appropriate.

My garden will grow as a result of me delving into others' gardens. And that can be done any time. No more feeds, but still a "Blogroll".

What links here

Created (3 years ago)