The cleverfooted squirrel's fall is inevitable.
I have absolutely no plans for where this collection of writing is going. I'll let it meander like a river over ages.
The internet is a home that you can't return to
There is a tremendous sadness on the fading fringes of the internet. Away from the addictive rage and infighting of the mainstream internet, personal websites lay abandoned, code slowly decaying, dormant until the hosting stops then disappearing into a dead link. As everything concentrates on a few oligarchic websites, the fringes of the internet lay a wasteland. All these abandoned homepages and blogs just exist, some left behind because their owners have moved on, others because their owners have departed from this existence. There are a few survivors that enjoy exploring these ruins, but even they can't escape the melancholy of the internet that they have lost. The age of the homepage is gone, and with it all the comfort that it brought.
The internet is my home, I grew up there. That's where I used to play. That's where I hung out through my awkward teenage years. That's where I found refuge while adjusting to adulthood. I have fond memories of it. And as with all homes I cannot return to it. At one point, everybody eventually realises that they have left and can never go back. Even if the distance is small, time always stretches the path to your old home until the entrance is beyond your reach. The internet that was once my home feels so hollow now. Did I outgrow the internet or did it outgrow me? How did I not notice the "Home" button disappearing from all the browsers?
The need to go home is universally human. Even nomadic people have homes to return to. Sometimes it is physical sometimes it isn't, but you can always travel to it. All great adventures, at least the ones with happy endings, end at home. It is the launching pad for your next journey and a goal for the end of it. You can orient yourself from your home, or you can use it to find your way back. You can't live life on platforms or out of a wallet, lest you lose your way and become a wandering ghost that is searching for a unexplained longing.
Home is where we place the things that we love. When we are home we can let our guard down, rest and feel comfortable. Where you can enjoy the true wealth of your treasures. My collections of trinkets, all my old notes, my faded old photos, childhood toys, my bed, rocks that I randomly picked up a decade ago and are somehow still with me. Homes accumulate all these tiny bits of love. It places me somewhere stable, not a stream of constantly sifting sand and mud where everything just slips out of my grasp.
Homes are welcoming to friends and family. It's where we get together with those that are closest to us to just hang out. It can be an elaborate feast or just a lazy evening on the couch. It's where we have conversations where no important information is transmitted but means the world to us. It's where we take off our masks and breathe. It's where we get each other's in jokes. It's where we host people and offer them shelter. Come in and enjoy some tea and a snack. Or drop by and borrow some sugar and stay for a chat. A proper home can grow and be shared.
I built a homepage because I had a longing. For years under my breath I whispered the repeated mantra of "I want to go home". I'd been adrift in the paradoxically lonely world of social media for so long, I wanted to set my feet on the solid ground of a homepage. Some place that I can go to and be with the things that I love. Safe and private, but also a place where I can offer hospitality and bond with others. Where I can define boundaries and personal space. A place that I can decorate and explore. Where I can grow and tend to things. Where I can take comfort from my tacky sense of design and my oddly specific interests, it might not be pretty but it's mine.
But even as I build this new home I know it's never going to be like the one that I lost. Home is a place that you can never return to.
Uploaded Feb 2022Go BACK (But we can never really go back can we?)
Links are the prayers of the internet
There is a human need to remember and offer our prayers. All cultures have a way of remembering others. I can be a lit incense stick, an offering of food, a pouring of drink, a faded photograph, a whispered prayer. These are rituals of gratitude that connect us to the past. We are a link in a long chain of remembrance. We are not alone in this world, we all have roots even if they are shallow, broken or lost. And we are resilient enough to make new connections and relationships. All capable of growing beyond a lonely individual.
Hypertext predates the internet. It's part intellectual tradition to state your sources and cite those that have come before you. These sprawling documents that are connected by their citations form a hypertext. You can trace through ideas and explore a knowledge space by following each citation. Citations are a form of academic kinship, a small prayer of gratitude for the giants that have lent their shoulders for you to climb. A hypertext is firmly grounded in its web of ideas. The internet, growing from these traditions opened up this mode of exploration to the wider public. Now everyone can browse and link to others, growing a wider web of interconnected ideas, a space where we can appreciate the thoughts of other people. Links represent our relationships, human connections in the form of blue underlined text. The more you appreciate other people the more paths you open and the space to explore widens.
But now the webs of gratitude have been brushed aside, replaced by a single feed of passive information that is designed to keep you from escaping a narrow endless pathway. We commodified the link, made it a simple metric in an algorithm to measure engagement. And once a concept is striped of its humanity and reduced to a quantity it becomes something that can be gamed, exploited and maximised. Now we have websites full of links, devoid of meaning, that are designed to push pages to the top of search algorithms. We have apps that actively discourage following links out of walled gardens. The autonomy to explore knowledge has been replaced with automated suggestions that funnel you to the most popular mainstream options. As everything gets more concentrated and everybody competes for attention, the culture of linking is slowly disappearing.
Embedded links, directories, web rings, blogrolls, are the pathways of the internet that let us explore. They take more effort than subscribing, rebloging, retweeting and liking. It takes judgment, deliberation and curation, a premediated building of trails to explore the dark forest of human knowledge. It is an act of building relationships, acknowledging and remembering. To find our roots and reestablish our place in the world while laying the waystations to guide others on their journeys of life.
Connect. Make links. Rebuild the chain of gratitude. Maybe then the internet will be human again.
Each link a prayer of gratitude and godspeed.
I'd like to acknowledge Sadgrl online for the wonderful collection of relevant resources which inspired me to write this.
Uploaded Feb 2022Go BACK