[TI-03] communal websites, moss of the internet, small personal devices
Hi all, It's been a while since my last share-out here. A few factors have been holding me back from sharing lately:
the question of a better cadence for all my various output (from daily research logs Making of Prince of Persia style to posts on specific ideas and phenomena to technical explorations and prototypes)
overflowing with ideas and being caught up in perfectionism for 10s of drafts
personal things and preparing for my month-long break in April (going to Taiwan and Japan!) for some dedicated rest post-Coda
These are all temporary and I am confident I’ll find a rhythm to these questions that feels right. Thank you as always for sitting with my explorations and a thanks to my sponsors for supporting me in this work.
What follows will be an unedited weekly retro for what I've been up to lately and my reflections on those explorations.
Since my last research update, some high level updates:
launched bulletin, the anti-todo list for reorienting attention and sitting with things that you want to linger on, for private alpha use and getting some feedback rolling in. Let me know if you'd like to try it by replying to this email, and I'll send it over!
There is a lot I wish I could do with this that feels like a very dedicated and tenuous investment given a lot of the work is dependent upon (and slightly adversarial towards) large social platforms where people already spend their time. I wonder about segmenting this stuff out and just focusing on the novel interactions and directions that are more long-term sustainable and less reliant on the good will of platforms
slow continuation of the "future of data" question. I haven't made much progress in terms of an active prototype but that is high on my list for next steps. I also received some wonderful advice from Steve Krouse, who has gone down this rabbit hole before and documented a lot of his journeys publicly (future of coding journal, and compose log). His end conclusion was that this is wayyy too complicated and crowded of a space to be worth building a company about it, but that's ok because my goal is just to establish the foundation for my own intuition around the nuances of data formats and develop strong opinions about how data should be formatted for different end-purposes.
communal computing provocations: I launched (we)bsite's first drop / homepage with jacky. We decided to start a separate twitter account for it too that will be a long-term continuation of my "what I want the internet / software to look / feel like" thread. (we)bsite will house our continual explorations together moving forward (https://github.com/we-bsite/we-bsite). We would love to host your internet dream on (we)bsite, and I encourage you to submit one!
I want to write my vision piece for the kind of communal computing future I imagine, concretely anchored to existing systems and metaphors in the world. This has felt hard to capture everything I find compelling and essential and has come out piece-meal, in short passionate bursts, but I feel the energy building to a rise that will see this through soon.
I've been learning about L-systems (and a lot through my friend Bhavik's tool) for creating a net art piece that I'm really excited about. It is a poetic representation of my communal gardening dreams and inspirations for the communal computing futures I care about.
I read Upstream, by Mary Oliver, in a whirlwind of a week. Her words touch me so deeply in such short phrases, and I find myself grasping onto these words as I approach my computing explorations. I want to find the form of computing that helps us be more of ourselves, play and be whimsical. I want computing to empower us to not only see but also embody the "thousand unbreakable links between each of us and everything else."
communal computing lab popup (name TBD): Scheming with a few others, we are manifesting a pop-up in San Francisco this summer, an interactive computing gallery (dynamicland x art gallery x public playground). I want this space to host pieces from the community that straddle the line between the digital and the physical. I want people to wander in and play with and leave their own marks on these pieces and discover themselves in conversation with people playing with the piece from the internet. I want this to have the expansiveness of Dynamicland with the community curated space of small galleries with the whimsy and public-access of playgrounds. Fundamentally, I want this to be a fun space that helps shape people's perspectives on computing, even slightly, towards one of play, community, and wonder.
figuring out how to collaborate with so many cool people! Traditionally, I am very bad at responding to texts and scheduling calls are even harder for me. I am simultaneously overwhelmed by the number of things I am in the middle of scheduling as well as feeling so energized by the amount of people aligned with the things that I'm pursuing and reaching out to me from my bat call. One thing I've been experimenting with is doing long-term email threads weaving between different ideas and threads. This allows exchanging of ideas without the pressure of finding a synchronous time to call and interrupting meandering flows. Also open to more suggestions about
What I'm keeping tabs on lately
the new hype thing LLMS and AI
the applications of newly accessible LLMs for helping the internet feel more like ours (and safeguard against the malicious uses of this technology). Simon Willison has shown that LLMs will very very soon be able to be run on any existing consumer hardware that individuals already have! This means an explosion of applications for nefarious purposes (scams, misinfo, abuse etc.), but the technology is here, and we will need to find a way (as we always do) to use it for good and the flourishing of the collective. We've already seen promising uses in simple brainstorming and generation for low-creativity applications and having a personalized tutor for any specialized field, but I want to know how this can be used as a communal technology to prompt us to reflect, develop our tastes, and find meaning in our world.
creating space for us on the internet
I'm spending a lot of time writing about and thinking about the common space that we share on the internet and how so much life emerges on the side (comments sections) and in corners of the internet like the moss that flowers in the cracks between the manicured sidewalks.
I want each person to be able to curate their own topical feeds (text and rich media) associated with their own personal space and corner on the internet. They should be able to share here first and then have it automatically syndicate to the huge social media platforms that give us distribution (ideally we find a new, more human way of distribution to address this).
I'm continually inspired by all the ways people have co-opted existing corporate space for creating communal space for connection. I recently found this video talking about the internet checkpoint (thanks henry!), a phenomenon of leaving intimate, personal stories on a random youtube video.
I'm actively looking for more things like this. Please send if you have any recs for me!
There has been very exciting recent developments at folk.computer in NYC, and I also saw a setup in SF this week experimenting with imbuing physical objects with the soul of digital things, to be triggered when placed on magical altars (like playing a particular album on Spotify or opening up the chat for a friend).
I want to experiment with a bunch of folk, home-cooked personal devices to this end, starting with a thermal cat printer (thanks omar) hooked up to a small server that who I can share with friends for leaving little notes that print onto my desk.
That's all for this dispatch! In the same vein as the long-form email threads with individuals, I imagine this newsletter as a long-form email thread with each of you and hope you feel not only welcome but encouraged to reply to any of these things with inspirations and feelings that come up.
Until next time! 🧡🪶