Internet Homesteading Renaissance?

Fact or Fiction: On Facts Not Doing What You Think They Do

Sure, sure. Great. Now like, you go back, I have an archive of all my old emails. And sometimes I’ll do a search and you know something about hypertext, right? It’ll turn out I was writing about it when I was 20. And I was or 22. And I was sending an email to a friend with some big web ideas in the early days of the web. And I’ll go back, I’ll be like, oh, what was I thinking then? And you know, what I was thinking exactly the same thing I’m thinking now. Like, just, I didn’t have the information. I didn’t have as much knowledge. I didn’t have the tools that I have or the resources, but my brain was roughly the same brain thinking the same thoughts. Now, if you asked me before I went and looked at that email…“what were you thinking back then?” I’d be like, “I was like a cave person. I had no idea what was going on.” That’s not true. I had tons of ideas. I just didn’t have the context. And I feel this is also true of culture, which is just like we kind of keep reinventing the same patterns over and over, and every new generation is like, “I just discovered television.”

…or hypertext…

Great podcast episode, again, by Postlight.

Then I listened to Anil Dash on the JOMO Podcast and, of course, Anil has been blogging forever, observing with relative accuracy the missteps we’ve made. He coined the term JOMO–Joy of Missing Out–in 2012. There’s no transcript of that episode, there’s not even a permalink to that episode other than to Apple’s podcast directory, a fact that is in itself a commentary on the modern web.

Anyway, it’s a great episode from early this year, and you should listen to it.

Digital Gardening is a term that’s all the rage with the kids these days. It’s a much more positive spin on what I’ve historically called organizing my sock drawer.

I am, somewhat unfortunately, back on Twitter. A while ago I tweeted:

Productivity porn is a lot like real porn. It can feel like the real thing, but doesn’t produce the same results. It can make you feel like you’re doing it wrong when you are doing the real thing. People can get addicted to it. Acronyms.

Both scenes have stars. Both appear to have a lot of free content available but it’s all just trying to get you to pay for more content.

All that said, there is some interesting thinking going on. My coworker Maggie Appleton has used her ability to create and illustrate concepts and metaphors to great effect and has an extensive post on the practice.

Where it’s really at, though, are community gardens.

Nadia Eghbal, in the introduction to her excellent book on open source, Working in Public, states:

Early internet activity was characterized by large-scale, distributed online communities: mailing lists, online forums, membership groups. These communities operated as a cluster of villages, each with its own culture, history, and norms. [p 14] [emphasis mine]

As the internet floated peacefully in its embryonic state, it really did seem possible that the world might eventually be powered by the efforts of self-organized communities. [p 15]

Social platforms brought all these communities to one place and smashed them together like Play-Doh. In doing so, they inadvertently changed the way we make and consume content. Creators now reach a much bigger potential audience, but these relationships are fleeting, one-sided, and often overwhelming. [p 14]

The relationship between platforms and their creators is critical to the discussion of how our online world is changing [p 22]

Her newsletter, as I’ve previously mentioned, is gold. This issue about the book:

Since 2016, however, we are undeniably moving into a second epoch of the social web, one in which “public” no longer equals “participatory.” This shift requires that we refactor our understanding of online communities.

…something’s changed. But what is it, and how do we navigate and operate in this new world? Are there preexisting examples that can help us understand it? This year, as we’re increasingly required to rely upon our online spaces for work and play, it’s become even more crucial to deeply understand our underlying social infrastructure.

Or this issue:

Online Town, Netflix Party, Discord, ham radio, 3-D printable gifts sent as CAD files, networked printers (the messages printing themselves out like on a Ouija board), meeting up on Figma, meeting up on Mario Party, meeting up on Animal Crossing, meeting up on Minecraft, meeting up on World of Warcraft. My lack of physical presence isn’t a limitation, it’s a liberation. Doused by a chemical accident, we’ve discovered we can morph into silver puddles and reappear wherever we please.

I don’t need my body anymore. I’m enjoying learning how to interact using a new, proprioceptive set of senses. Yes, it’s tactile, but I’m not really touching you. Yes, it’s visual, but I’m not really seeing you. A phone call feels more intimate than a Zoom call. Doing activities together feels more intimate than talking. The best online interactions I’ve had don’t try to recreate the past, but start with the premise of disembodiment.

Her notes are full of interesting, fleeting thoughts and observations about community.

“Builder communities” that are oriented around an activity? (making open source software, playing Minecraft, choreographing dance routines, etc)

Getting to know ppl by doing something alongside them is often better than milling around and talking. This was true of offline communities already, but can we now use that as a design principle for online communities as well? [2020-05-03]

The one thing that seems to have sprung out of this post-Facebook/locked-down era is the resurgence of Communities of Practice. Just myself, I’m participating in The Mighty Minds Club [ed – no longer], a multidisciplinary group of designers and thinkers; Kent C Dodds’ Discord, where cohorts are working through curriculum together; my weekly online D&D game; and a private “Adventure Club” working through 30x500.

When the pandemic lock-down began, I rejoined Facebook and Twitter, the former to connect with family and close friends, the latter for connecting to broader communities. Neither platform has helped me succeed in those goals. Instead I have a weekly Zoom call with my parents and all of the aforementioned micro-communities. I could, and probably soon will walk away, once again, from the cesspools that are the Major Social Networks.

There also seems to be a renewed interest in personal publishing, and I’m hearing little whispers of discontent about the homogenization of web design, a longing for the independent, more art-fueled days of even, gasp, MySpace.

Facebook has even created, FFS. (Don’t use it.)

It all started when a few of us found ourselves missing the raw and exploratory spirit of The Early Internet and began to wonder things like: Is this misplaced nostalgia? What was actually so special about that time?

Finally, from another Podlight podcast episode, Restricting Freedom for More Freedom: On The Parallels Between Wearing a Mask and Regulating Tech

PF …5,000 years from now, they’ll resurrect our consciousnesses and say, why did you make fun of Facebook? And we’ll go, what? And they’ll go. I am Facebook.

RZ Alright, well, on that note, have a great week everyone! Thanks for listening.

PF Hail Zuckerberg. Goodbye!

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