Nomads of the Biodome
Gardens, mazes, carrier bags, poems, villages, cabinets, and public parks, are much more interesting places on the internet than yet another shop in the giant shopping malls.
Another Sunday, Another Naive Weekly - Observations From The Internet Wilderness.
Before summer, one of my favourite blogs had all its posts removed. It happened without any warning. It made me sad to look at a white screen where there earlier had been a nostalgic looking website full of reflections about link cowboys, web rings, and directories. Now everything was gone.
Over the next days I kept checking in on the blog hoping it would be back online. Maybe it was a glitch, a malfunctioning server or a design overhaul? Yet nothing of that sort happened. Instead, one day an odd looking copyright claim from Walt Disney appeared.
I started searching for answers. Through Hacker News I learn that it was possible to click around on the website and discover the personal journal of the corporate lawyer behind the claims. Everything is super odd, like the printable maze and the copyright claim tweets on the official Twitter account for the blog.
Today the old blog posts are still not online, but the Walt Disney copyright claim has turned into an internet saga. I won’t say too much, partly because I don’t know much about it, but also because you should have the pleasure of clicking around Kickscondor.com yourself. And if you are curious about the old blog posts, there is a hint to how you can find them if you scroll down to this week’s Internet Stories.
Stock market charts as landscapes. Above is Ford.
Dries De Roeck submitted his Ph.D. on the design process of connected products two months ago and is about to go to Senegal for five months with his family. He is an active member in the ThingsCon community, dad, and maker of stickers. Whenever he hits reply to this newsletter, it is always with thoughtful observations.
K: Who can write the future?
Dries: Young people can! It’s super fascinating to see my own children (now 6 and 9) grow up and see what genuinely triggers their interest and how to perceive the world around them. I try to engage in their worlds with genuine interest as well (that is, if they allow me to), listening to their new discoveries in Roblox and latest battles in Brawl Stars. Taking on the very unbiased perspective of a young person can be very inspirational for me, it is something I’ve done on a larger scale as well - when I got 300+ children between 6 and 12 to make a drawing of the internet. The unexpected insights produced by such an activity feeds my brain to build new ideas and concepts.
K: What is the size of your internet?
Dries: I think my internet is quite vernacular, lots of little things left and right which are not very organised. It tends to concentrate around a couple of curated sources (like this newsletter) for different purposes. These purposes all have a focus, and usually relate to people interacting with technology. So I guess you could see my internet as a collection of curated playlists, which I check in with every so often. These ‘playlists’ are curated by people who I find inspirational, respect or trust. Some of them I have followed online for a long time, others I know in person. In total I’m only thinking about a group of about seven of these ‘internet curators’, which each branch off into their own little domains (for example: indie games, mechanical keyboards, interaction design, comics, making & hacking, ethical design, writing, academic research).
K: Where do you go to get lost?
Dries: I go running. It’s the perfect form of meditation and time to spend inside my own head. I often start a run being super frustrated and stressed out about something, but during the run all dark clouds dissolve into nothingness… allowing me to see the larger picture and the sheer relativity of whatever it was I was stressed about. Also, ever since I started running about three years ago, I rediscovered so many local hidden places or paths.
K: What emotion is lost online?
Dries: Blunt enthusiasm. I have the feeling whenever something is posted online, we tend to jump into a commenting mode instead of a supportive one. There is this quote by Yoko Ono which I think back to quite often: “I admire most creative people and most creative efforts because I like the idea that they’re doing something. Even if it’s crap, I like the idea that they’re doing something”
Online anno 2020 things seem to be made to be commented upon, thoughts and opinions to be had… ratings to be given. Whereas I think things should be able to ‘just be’. Thinking about it, this might be why I’m growing quite fond of the idea of having digital gardens, where stuff can be just put online without any expectations.
K: What was one rabbit hole you recently fell into?
Dries: Depends how stretchable ‘recently’ is, but mechanical keyboards have been quite the rabbit hole for me. The endless ways to customise a typing experience fascinates me, and I enjoy taking my time to think and dream about keyboard building. Also the communities behind this scene are really fascinating, I enjoy participating and observing how the social interactions around custom keyboard building takes place. How ‘interest checks’ and ‘group buys’ are organised, and how different community groups have specific preferences. I recently joined a Japanese custom keyboard discord server, which is totally different from what you see happening elsewhere. I just love seeing people make things with a shared passion, where the end result can be super personalised… tailored to an audience of one but made possible by a much larger community.
Make paperclips. I ended up spending two hours on this game Friday evening, so initiate with care.
I’m pleased with some mainstream recognition for the digital garden movement and the MIT Technology Review article does a good job introducing the concept. To read further on Digital Gardens I recommend Maggie Appleton’s excellent resource list. Maggie’s list also provides you with guides to create your own digital gardens.
This is the shortest article I have ever linked to in this section of the newsletter. I don’t follow the author’s advice of linking to archive pages rather than the original site, but his thinking resonates. I always appreciate when people try to explain why the internet is not permanent.
Fantastic article by Tega Brain! ‘To let off steam’ only became a saying after the invention of the steam engine. Similarly, I doubt anyone in the past would ever say they needed to ‘process new information’. Technological invention informs — and forms — our language and world view. Today’s main culprit is ‘system thinking’ which transfers a computational logic to everything else, and not without harm.
UNDERSTORY: THIS MACHINE KILLS
Uber, Zuboff, Palantir, and the subscription economy are four of the topics covered in the first episodes of This Machines Kills. It is a newly launched podcast on technology and political economy counting six episodes. In the latest episode they discuss the consequences of life-as-a-service, arguing that we should translate the strong renter protection rights to digital services. I'm listening.
Hi, I’m Kristoffer and you have just read Naive Weekly - Observations from the Internet Wilderness.
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