March 4, 2004 23:51 | Culture / Features / Social / WebBlogging

When thoughts collide

I received today my copy of Christopher Alexander's "The Timeless Way of Building" and floated down through the two first chapters as though carried by a gently nimble stream of clear water. More peaceful pondering on that later.

I ordered it for I had seen it mentioned in Ben's profile on Flickr. I briefly met Ben at ETech. His job title at Ludicorp (the makers of Flickr) is "Itinerant Philosopher". I trust in the serendipity of such encounters, even when it means ordering an expensive hardcover book.

Curious to see what other bloggers may have to say about the tome, I keyword-searched Technorati for its title and found that Peter Kaminski, of SocialText, had mentioned it just recently.

Of online social interaction, in the context of applying Alexander's ideas to the development online social spaces, he says this:

whereas architectural patterns of use have thousands of years of experience to draw on, online interactions have only been occurring for decades. It will take time to learn how people best interact online

In an earlier entry here, I pointed us to Mark's "explanation" of McLuhan's "The medium is the message", wherein this is said:

Right at the beginning of Understanding Media, [McLuhan] tells us that a medium is "any extension of ourselves." Classically, he suggests that a hammer extends our arm and that the wheel extends our legs and feet. Each enables us to do more than our bodies could do on their own. Similarly, the medium of language extends our thoughts from within our mind out to others.

I am of this mind:

For the first time, humanity is developing a medium which is not an extension of a faculty we already posses, but one which Douglas Adams refers to as, paraphrased, "the most cursed of social diseases": telepathy. Perhaps even something a step below omniscience. Not knowing "everything", but having easy access to "a heck of a lot". Having built out the infrastructure for our extended central nervous system and memory, personal logging and explicit social network systems will extend our "knowing". While we are at the very very beginning of these developments, it is paramount that we not only stop and ponder the ramifications and changes this will engender, but also make damn sure we move forward in a spirit of what Alexander refers to as "The quality without a name": alive, whole, comfortable, free, exact, egoless, eternal.

As the well placed stones in a garden.

Let me sum it up this way: what do you call a situation where potentially I can know where you are, what you are doing and what you are thinking, and you I? How do we build it, for it WILL be built, making sure we don't drive ourselves collectively batty?


You asked: "what do you call a situation where potentially I can know where you are, what you are doing and what you are thinking, and you I?"

I call it "the Borg."

The capabilities of Internet-based media are astounding, but I really don't want to see an end to privacy, individuality, and all those other tasty morsels of advanced humanity that very few of us on the planet actually enjoy.

The 'net is a great knowledge tool, but I don't want it creeping into my soul.

Exactly Ed! And that is why it is imperative that as we move forward we do NOT allow the technology to invade us completely in "unnatural" ways.

What is and isn't "natural", however is blurry and debateable... and being debated. :)