Digital gardens let you grow your own little piece of the internet


Under the umbrella term, however, digital gardens don’t follow the rules. These are not blogs, short for “weblogs”, a term that evokes a time-stamped history of thought. This is not a social media platform. Connections are made, but often by linking to other digital gardens or by coming together in forums such as Reddit and Telegram for nerd on the code.

Tom Critchlow, a consultant who cultivates his digital garden for years, explains the main difference between old-fashioned blogging and digital gardening. “With blogging, you talk to a large audience,” he says. “With digital gardening, you are talking to yourself. You focus on what you want to grow over time. “

What they have in common is that they can be changed at any time to reflect evolution and change. The idea is similar to editing a Wikipedia entry, although digital gardens aren’t meant to be the ultimate word on a topic. As a slower, clunkier way to explore the internet, they revel in not being the definitive source, just a source, says Mike Caulfield, a digital literacy expert at Washington State University.

In fact, the whole point of digital gardens is that they can grow and change, and multiple pages on the same topic can coexist. “This is less iterative learning than public learning,” says Maggie Appleton, designer. Appleton’s digital garden, for example, includes thoughts on plant-based meat, book reviews, and digressions on Javascript and magic capitalism. It is “an open collection of notes, resources, sketches and explorations that I am currently cultivating”, his introduction declared. “Some notes are seedlings, some are budding and some are evergreen to full growth.[s]. “

Appleton, who was trained as an anthropologist, says she was drawn to digital gardens because of their depth. “The content is not on Twitter and it is never deleted,” she says. “Everyone does their weird thing. Sky is the limit.”

This ethos of creativity and individuality has been echoed by several people I have spoken to. Some have suggested that the digital garden was a backlash to the internet we have grown reluctantly used to, where things go viral, change is despised, and sites are one-dimensional. Facebook and Twitter profiles have convenient locations for photos and posts, but digital garden enthusiasts reject these fixed design elements. The sense of time and space to explore is essential.

Caulfield, who has researched disinformation and disinformation, wrote a blog post in 2015 on the “technopastoral“, In which he described the federated wiki structure promoted by computer programmer Ward Cunningham, who believed the Internet should support a”chorus of voices»Rather than the few rewarded on social networks today.

“The stream has dominated our lives since the mid-2000s,” says Caulfield. But it does mean people are posting content or consuming it. And, says Caulfield, the internet as it stands rewards the value of shock and stupid things. “By engaging in digital gardening, you are constantly finding new connections, more depth and nuance,” he says. “What you write is not a fossilized comment for a blog post. When you learn more, you add to it. It’s less shock and rage; it’s more connective. In an age of fatal scrolling and zoom fatigue, some digital garden enthusiasts say the Internet they live in is, as Caulfield puts it, “optimistic.”

While many people seek more intimate communities on the internet, not everyone can create a digital garden – you need to be able to do at least some rudimentary coding. Building a page from scratch offers more creative freedom than social media and web hosting sites that let you drag and drop items onto your page, but it can be intimidating and time consuming.

Chris Biscardi is trying to get rid of that barrier to entry with a digital garden text editor that is still in its alpha phase. Called Toast, it’s “something you could experiment with with WordPress,” he says.

Ultimately, it remains to be seen whether digital gardens will be an escape remnant of the 2020 Hell landscape or fade in the face of easier social media. “I’m interested to see how it goes,” says Appleton.

“For some people it’s a reaction to social media, and for others it’s a trend,” Critchlow says. “Whether or not she reaches critical mass… that’s to be seen.”



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