Moving the deckchairs

For Tim Owens and Mike Caulfield

Screen Shot 2015-05-08 at 9.50.37 am

This is a quick post to mark a small turning point. Thanks to the extraordinary patience of Tim Owens at Reclaim Hosting, this blog has shifted to its own domain, and future posts will be coming from musicfordeckchairs.com.

As far as I can tell, subscribers have been transferred but if you have links to the blog, or RSS feeds from here, you’ll need to update them yourself. I’m so sorry if this causes bother.

Staying with wordpress.com for four years helped me learn a ton of simple things. But I’ve been following the development of Jim Groom’s Reclaim Your Domain philosophy from the get-go, and it has always made sense to me, not only as someone who writes in a way that is quite obviously independent from the public communications of my employer, but also as someone who works with students writing in public.

Back in October 2013, Jim wrote a post on his vision for the Reclaim project, that connects the pragmatics of domain ownership to open models of education and learning, to the demands and refusals of agency we all experience as we go about our digital lives. This is where he came down:

To negotiate anything from voting to financial aid to welfare to health care you will need to be web literate. As more and more of these social services go on line, the more we will need to understand how these spaces work, have access and control over this data, and ensure that we’re working to educate the folks who need to know how it works most. I loved that idea, and it abstracted well beyond education. In that regard, reclaim your domain is bigger than that—it is starts to possibly frame a blueprint for a kind of federal digital strategy on an individual basis—something like this has to be coming sooner or later. All of us want some way to start thinking about how we will manage, archive, and share the digital resources we have been creating, collecting, and sharing over the last twenty years, and this will all get more important as time goes on. In many ways this branch of reclaim the most exciting to me.

I was immediately taken with it and planned to join. But about a month later, I found myself dealing with a whole other domain that took me away from this practice for 18 months of illness and recovery. During this time Jim encouraged me nicely to hop across any time I was ready, but for all sorts of reasons I was losing confidence in the ability even to write sentences let alone grasp new things. So I told myself that this level of agency wasn’t for me.

It’s not the coding, but something else: conceptually, I really am a dunce. Spell it out for me, show me on a video, give me a pattern, and I’ll copy the instructions faithfully. In craft terms, I’m a counted cross-stitch gal, with the emphasis on counting.  (Although if you have the slightest interest in what cross-stitch has to do with the internet of things, do take a detour to this lovely student blog post and see what she has done there.)

So something really basic about domain mapping just didn’t click, and I stayed within the realm of the safe and familiar, avoiding the language that seemed to metaphorise onto familiar imagery, until it didn’t. My head was spinning: the digital side of the digital humanities was really failing on the vine for me.

Then earlier this summer, I was given the opportunity to participate with Mike Caulfield, Ward Cunningham and their community of coderati in the Federated Wiki project. From their careful encouragement, I learned how to learn a new skill in an unfamiliar language, and how to understand the skills I have as a writer and bricoleur through a different lens.

If you can make time, the big educational proposition behind the Federated Wiki project is in this extraordinary keynote from November 2014, looping and lacing ideas from Sputnik to Jim Groom to the Kinneavy Triangle to Kate Middleton’s wedding dress.

If you’re in a rush, skip to this:

 I hope this can open up an honest discussion about the ways in which social media is not serving our needs as it currently stands. As advocates we’re so often put in a situation where we have to defend the very idea that social media *is* an information sharing solution that we don’t often get to think about what a better solution for collaboration would look like. Because there are problems with the way social media works now.

My hypothesis is that this federated scheme solves many of the problems. I might be right.

But what I *know* I’m right about is that these problems exist, and they are serious.

Minority voices are squelched, flame wars abound. We spend hours at a time as rats hitting the Skinner-esque levers of Twitter and Tumblr, hoping for new treats — and this might be OK if we actually then built off these things, but we don’t.

We’re stuck in an attention economy feedback loop that doesn’t allow us silent spaces to reflect on issues without news pegs, and in which many of our areas of collaboration have become toxic, or worse, a toxic bureaucracy.

We’re stuck in an attention economy feedback loop where we react to the reactions of reactions (while fearing further reactions), and then we wonder why we’re stuck with groupthink and ideological gridlock.

We’re bigger than this and we can envision new systems that acknowledge that bigness.

This.

I entered the Federated Wiki experiment as a writer, and came out a better writer, because I learned how to use technical connectivity as a light trapeze from one idea to another. Federated Wiki isn’t for everyone, and it’s certainly got a face for radio at the moment, but my experience has been that there are very sophisticated values behind it that have something to do with how we’ll learn in the future.

So now, thanks to all the human patience and technical encouragement of people like Tim and Mike, and Audrey who said “just do it”, I’m pinning a note on the door of this blog to say that everything is just over there

One thought on “Moving the deckchairs

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s