The Garden and the Stream as Metaphors for WWW

The Garden is an old metaphor associated with hypertext. Those familiar with the history will recognize this. The Garden of Forking Paths from the mid-20th century. The concept of the Wiki Gardener from the 1990s. Mark Bernstein’s 1998 essay Hypertext Gardens.

The Garden is the web as topology. The web as space. It’s the integrative web, the iterative web, the web as an arrangement and rearrangement of things to one another.

Things in the Garden don’t collapse to a single set of relations or canonical sequence, and that’s part of what we mean when we say “the web as topology” or the “web as space”. Every walk through the garden creates new paths, new meanings, and when we add things to the garden we add them in a way that allows many future, unpredicted relationships


The Stream is a newer metaphor with old roots. We can think of the”event stream” of programming, the “lifestream” proposed by researchers in the 1990s. More recently, the term stream has been applied to the never ending parade of Twitter, news alerts, and Facebook feeds.

In the stream metaphor you don’t experience the Stream by walking around it and looking at it, or following it to its end. You jump in and let it flow past. You feel the force of it hit you as things float by.

It’s not that you are passive in the Stream. You can be active. But your actions in there — your blog posts, @ mentions, forum comments — exist in a context that is collapsed down to a simple timeline of events that together form a narrative.

In other words, the Stream replaces topology with serialization. Rather than imagine a timeless world of connection and multiple paths, the Stream presents us with a single, time ordered path with our experience (and only our experience) at the center.


The author will later call the memex the original garden.

Folksonomies: metaphors digital distraction

/technology and computing/internet technology (0.799400)
/technology and computing/internet technology/social network (0.771796)
/technology and computing/internet technology/web search/people search (0.740059)

World Wide Web (0.983282): dbpedia_resource
Hypertext (0.914295): dbpedia_resource
Internet (0.776822): dbpedia_resource
Memex (0.695477): dbpedia_resource
As We May Think (0.591708): dbpedia_resource
Vannevar Bush (0.573308): dbpedia_resource
Web 2.0 (0.567131): dbpedia_resource
Garden (0.530672): dbpedia_resource

 The Garden and the Stream: A Technopastoral
Electronic/World Wide Web>Internet Article:  Caufield, Mike (October 2015), The Garden and the Stream: A Technopastoral, Retrieved on 2023-01-05
  • Source Material []
  • Folksonomies: web topology world wide web media distraction


    05 JAN 2023

     Web Gardens and Digital Streams

    The Garden and the Stream as Metaphors for WWW > Additional Support/Evidence > Web Gardens and Streams Elaborated
    Web Gardens are contextualized, interconnected spaces online like Wikipedia. Digital Streams are serialized events that flow like Twitter or Facebook feeds.


    05 JAN 2023

     Fighting Digital Distraction

    Digital Literacy means having the power to resist the attention economy, taking our focus back, and producing rather than consuming.