Web Gardens and Digital Streams

Web Gardens are contextualized, interconnected spaces online like Wikipedia. Digital Streams are serialized events that flow like Twitter or Facebook feeds.


Folksonomies: attention distraction digital gardens digital streams

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.

Notes:

The author will later call the memex the original garden.

Folksonomies: digital distraction metaphors

Additional Support/Evidence

Web Gardens and Streams Elaborated

Caufield makes clear digital gardening is not about specific tools – it's not a Wordpress plugin, Gastby theme, or Jekyll template. It's a different way of thinking about our online behaviour around information - one that accumulates personal knowledge over time in an explorable space.

Caufield's main argument was that we have become swept away by streams – the collapse of information into single-track timelines of events. The conversational feed design of email inboxes, group chats, and InstaTwitBook is fleeting – they're only concerned with self-assertive immediate thoughts that rush by us in a few moments. While this may sound obvious now, the streamification of everything was still dawning around 2015.

This is not inherently bad. Streams have their time and place. Twitter is a force-multiplier for exploratory thoughts and delightful encounters once you fall in with the right crowd and learn to play the game.

But streams only surface the Zeitgeisty ideas of the last 24 hours. They are not designed to accumulate knowledge, connect disparate information, or mature over time. Though the rising popularity of Twitter threading is an impressive attempt to reconfigure a stream environment and make it more garden-esque.

The garden is our counterbalance. Gardens present information in a richly linked landscape that grows slowly over time. Everything is arranged and connected in ways that allow you to explore. Think about the way Wikipedia works when you're hopping from Bolshevism to Celestial Mechanics to Dunbar's Number. It's hyperlinking at it's best. You get to actively choose which curiosity trail to follow, rather than defaulting to the algorithmically-filtered ephemeral stream. The garden helps us move away from time-bound streams and into contextual knowledge spaces.

Notes:

Folksonomies: web topology digital distraction