Notes: The Garden and the Stream

Talk at Washington State University

Federated wiki "journal"

A different way to think about collaboration. Uses a personal wiki as first example.

Talks about "de-streaming" an article.

  • Grab the relevant data from the source material in a block quote, write a one sentence summary at the top.
  • Include links when possible.
  • You're creating "home pages" for ideas.
  • Look for things to connect it to.
  • Go back to the original, add a summary, and link to the thing that is related.

"The excitement here is in building complexity, not in reducing it."

There's meaning that's created that resists reduction. Once things get turned into an argument/rhetoric, all the disparate pieces fuse together in a way that resists generating new ideas/understanding.

He believes the way in which we collaborate has fallen out of balance, and that we ought to restore some sense of balance to it.

The Garden & The Stream

The garden is an old metaphor associated with [[hypertext]]. Mark Bernstein's 1998 hypertext gardens essay.

"The garden is the web as topology. It's the web as space. It's the integrative web, the iterative web, the web as arrangement and rearrangement of one thing to another. Things in the garden don't collapse to a single set of relations, or to a canonical sequence."

Every walk through the garden wears new paths and new meaning. Add things to the garden in such a way that allows for new meaning and relationships to surface.

Again there's this idea of resisting the idea that chronological order is important in any way.

"In the garden to ask 'what happened first?' is kind of a trivial question at best. The bridge doesn't reply to the trees, the trees don't reply to the bridge. They bear a relationship to each other, but it's not really a time-bound relationship."

The stream is not topology. You get into it, and stuff moves past you. All interactions are reduced to serialization. The stream presents us with a time-ordered path.

"The stream is self-assertive. It's persuasion, it's argument, it's advocacy, it's personal and personalized, and immediate. It's also extremely invigorating."

Recapitulating instead of iterating.

Brings up Vannevar Bush's essay [[as-we-may-think]]. Points out that the words Bush used to describe his Memexto link, annotate, change, summarize, copyare the verbs of "gardens."

In the Memex, the major linking activity falls on the reader. It's a participatory process.

Links in blogging define who you're in conversation with.

He sees the web in its current form not as a reconfigurable model of understanding, but as a sequence of sealed-shut presentations.

Compares the more than 1 billion people on facebook with the roughly 31,000 people maintaining the English Wikipedia. Direct example of the lure of the stream, and the lack of interest in creating gardens.

Compression of knowledge does violence to that knowledge's history.

If we could build environments that really encourage people to share their knowledge rather than to have conversations that lock people out, if we could fund those sorts of tools I think we'd see a lot of progress

GitHub has taught a generation of programmers that copies are good, that proliferation is beneficial and not something to be feared. Fork away, it builds a stronger network.

We can imagine a world so much better than this one if only we can get our heads out of the stream for a little bit and build the garden we need.

Now What?

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