Making a Place on the Web - Garden


This page is about the idea of gardening, and how sending digital care packages + going on and sharing internet strolls and rabbit holes might be two small ways to garden on the web.

It’s one of three on the idea of ‘making a place on the web.’ See the rest here: Project - Making a Place on the Web.

Pollan’s Gardening

To begin, I want to think about ‘gardening’ through Michael Pollan’s essay Beyond Wilderness and Lawn. In it, he distinguishes three ways of treating nature: as lawn, as wilderness, and as garden.

‘Lawn’ is nature as put under complete control, thoroughly domesticated, tightly cropped.

‘Wilderness’ is nature as sacred, something to be worshiped, to be left untouched.

It’s a fascinating essay, covering the history of how the idea of the ‘lawn’ originated in ~1870 America, which was the exact same time the transcendentalists like Emerson and Thoreau were pushing forward ‘wilderness’ (national parks came about then).

Pollan then argues that both approaches fall short of being able to solve our environmental problems. While gardens themselves won’t put us in right relationship to nature, the “habits of thought they foster can take us a long way in that direction.”

It forces us to “ask the gardener’s questions”, ”[tutoring] us in nature’s ways”:

Gardening, Wilderness, Lawn as Ways of Relating to Digital Objects

I want to think about Pollan’s three ways of relating, and swap out the focus of ‘nature’ to ‘digital objects’.

Gardening then becomes a way of working with the digital objects we collect, manage, create etc.

(By digital objects I’m meaning something roughly like below. Imported objects are things that can exist outside of the digital environment. Native things are created from, exists on, and only makes sense in the context of the digital environment.)

Let me give some examples.

‘Wilderness’ might be a Twitter search with just the letter ‘a’. This is pristine, untouched, chaotic information stream. There’s definitely better examples to reflect data as unfiltered (since Twitter moderates), and raw data as sacred.

‘Lawn’ might be some corporate website, where every pixel and word is considered and has gone through 10 different teams and months of meetings and reviews.

It could be argued that something like an profile that has all their channels neatly organised is a ‘garden’, although I think it still mostly leans towards wilderness because it’s often just collection without tending.

For me, gardening requires meaningful revisiting and cultivating over time — there’s growth involved.

(I should note that none of these modes are ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than the other! It just depends on what you’re trying to do with the information. I happen to be making a case for the garden mode here.)

The most direct example of a digital garden would be, well, digital gardens! Lead by folks like Andy Matuschak, they’re personal, wiki-like spaces that collect ever growing, in-process notes. They’re like a far less ‘lawned up’ blog — densely tangled, interlinked and alive.

They deserve a separate essay, I love them. The mindset of e.g notes as evergreens has actually prompted me to ask better questions and take better notes.

For now I’ll plug Joel Hook’s essay: 🌱 My blog is a digital garden, not a blog, and Maggie Appleton’s repo which has a wealth of articles, theories, tools, and (!) a directory of gardens: Both are great gardeners too!

Before I move on, here’s a graph:

From the great Wild, we collect digital objects. Two examples of modes of collecting might be hoarding or curation. Finally, we then further treat them in a ‘gardening’ or a ‘lawn’ way.

Other Modes of Digital Gardening

With that, I was curious as to what other ways the garden concept might manifest digitally. I’ll look at it through the conceptualisation above: revisiting + growing = gardening.

(I should say that I’m not particularly convinced by the two buckets since they blend into one another and it feels like growing / evolution is more constitutive to gardening than revisiting is, but for the sake of discussion let’s say that they’re helpful)

In ‘revisiting’, we might have spaced repetition or coming across the same ideas repeatedly through research over an extended period of time. Here’s a compelling essay by Michael Nielsen on that: Augmenting Long-term Memory.

‘Growing’ might be accumulation on top of a foundation through developing ideas by e.g writing an essay about it, or through modes of threading (e.g Visakan Veerasamy style) / through the backlinks of Roam.

When we talk about something with others, I think there’s potential for both:

  • revisiting: sharing, explaining
  • growing: discussion

The question is: how do we incentivise gardening, including for non text-based things? Why would anyone want to revisit the 851st block in their arena channel?

I think an answer might be through one of the ways we show care to our friends through the internet:

Sending memes! Or resources, or songs, or papers.

Care Package

And so here’s the idea — what if we made a ‘care package’ at the start of every month of the best stories, poems, podcasts that we’ve come across, maybe add a little note to each of them, and then send it off to our friend? And what if they did the same for us?

And on top of that, to link in the ideas of talking about it with others, what if our messaging apps had this integrated so we could start and maintain conversations based on the material that we’ve sent, and be able to link all these different threads together in some way too? It allows us to revisit the material we’ve gotten over the past month, and perhaps even build on the same digital objects over multiple months.

I want to at some point build on top of Max Kriegers ideas on chat, covered in his wonderful comic: Chatting with Glue.

Internet Strolls and Rabbit Holes

Moving on, one central part of the care packages is experiencing something together. I think a related idea here would be that of ‘internet strolls and rabbit holes’:

What if we could create and share journeys we’ve taken across the internet, with the sights we’ve seen and the rocks we’ve collected attached?

(This image is from my exploration on tabs.)

What if there were ‘secrets’ that we could set for others that would open up new pathways (e.g they have to collect the right image or piece of text)?

Maybe we’d be able to add your own objects, and then, of course, link each part into the chat.

End Notes

So those are the two ideas. Both tap into a care and sharing, and so I wonder not only what other ideas might be created from this basis, but what other ways we might be enticed into gardening?

Linked References

Making a Place on the Web - Tabs

I’m the kind of person to have 50 tabs open across 4 different windows. I’d like to have an easier time managing that, so here’s an attempt that gives tabs its own interface.

This page is one of three on the idea of ‘making a place on the web.’ See the rest here: Project - Making a Place on the Web.

The main interface looks like this. The links map out the breadcrumbs.

For switching between tabs, we can do it via two ways.

The first is a shortcut key. This shows the quick switch.

The second is through a minimap. Since it’s persistently in the bottom corner, how it blocks out content might make it too ‘noisy’. That said, I feel like there’s some potential here.

Here’s a bit more detail on how the tabs and the links between them are represented on opening new tabs and closing and / or switching into a new one.

Groups and Spaces

There isn’t really a way to organise tabs at the moment, and so I wanted to have ‘groups’ and ‘spaces’.

Groups chunk relevant tabs together.

I also wanted there to be drawing. Lots of other folks have done very interesting things with drawn gestures.

Even thinking about what a basic gesture like drawing an arrow from one tab to another could entail would yield something — what kind of information are you connecting?

Spaces are like our current ‘windows’. I generally have each window serve a particular function, e.g I’d have a work window and a music + relax window.

What’s created in the space remains in the space, except showing up in ‘All’.

Multiplayer Spaces

I also wanted spaces to allow for multiplayer, for the cases of e.g doing research together on the same topic.

If we think about each tab as capable of holding additional information (e.g adding descriptions to tabs to know why we opened it), maybe we can drag images and text into the minimap, which will save it to the tab.

Here’s one direction of revealing what things we’ve saved

I also like the idea of the links themselves being capable of holding information. The most basic would be to show what tabs were closed (reconstructing the breadcrumbs).

But maybe there could be entire programs / modules between tabs that enrich the connections between them. What if each connection between tabs was a mini game?

Collecting Digital Objects

Why might we want to collect such digital objects?

One idea is to enable you to create ‘treks’, or ‘internet strolls and rabbit holes’ for others to follow.

I talk about this idea, as well as digital care packages, on my page about digital gardening: Project - Making a Place on the Web - Garden.


Some brief things on an interface for the history.

Taking inspiration from this article: The Future of Browser History.

I also use these two trackers daily (Time Your Web for Chrome, and Manic Time for everything else).

Note how messy it is.

This is why I would have different views:

  • Expanded has each new tab as its own line.
  • Grouped would group each by the website.
  • Collapsed has it all on one line.

Hover interaction for breadcrumbs.

End Notes

That’s all I have for now! This page also exists as a Twitter thread (see that here), at the bottom of which I’ve linked in other people who has been poking at the same ideas. Lots of convergence, and even more incredibly inspiring explorations!

Making a Place on the Web - Home

I want to meander over a few topics: the idea of ‘home’ and making a cozier digital in the form of bedrooms and living rooms, home as self, the private and the public, three kinds of co-created spaces on the web and my desire for a co-created space as ‘garden’.

I don’t really have any answers or proposals, but I think the ideas here help richen the flowerbed.

This page is one of three on the idea of ‘making a place on the web.’ See the rest here: Project - Making a Place on the Web.

Ideas of Home

To begin, we often talk about creating a home on the internet. What does ‘home’ mean?

Drawing from The People, Place, and Space Reader, we typically associate homes with buildings, and Heidegger argues that it’s the way in which we ‘dwell’ within buildings that make it a home.

The word ‘building’ has its roots in the Old English / High German version ‘baun’, which means ‘to dwell’. The German words for ‘am’ and ‘are’, as in ‘I am’ (ich bin) and ‘you are’ (du bist) also relates to ‘buan’, so: ‘I dwell’ and ‘you dwell’.

To be at home isn’t merely to occupy a space, but relates to how we are rooted within it, and not just as any creature, but specifically as humans.

Here’s Heidegger:

The way in which you are and I am, the manner in which we humans are on the earth, is buan, dwelling. To be a human being means to be on the earth as a mortal. It means to dwell.

It isn’t just a ‘house’. As Rybczynski says in Domesticity, “you could walk out of the house, but you always returned home.”

(That Rybczynski piece is fantastic btw, it covers how our modern notion of ‘domesticity’, of the private family home, the ‘housewife’ (who’s strict about keeping the home clean), of taking off shoes when entering home etc had strong historical roots in 17th century Netherlands.)

One notion that stuck with me is this beautiful idea of how a song could be home. From J. Macgregor Wise’s Home:

So the home is existentially grounding, a place of comfort that "permits people to fashion in their own image", a "setting for personal seclusion and intimate behaviour free from public comment or Imrie in Disability, Embodiment and the Meaning of the Home.

It’s striking, then, how little control most of us have over the vast majority of our digital space.

Sure, we could move around a few files and maybe post a few things, but that's about the extent to which we can change this And that's not to say that the digital doesn't have an big impact on us, or us on other people through what we change on here.

I want a space where I can really shape it so that, for example, the first thing I see when I opened up my laptop is a livestream of a place that’s currently having its sunrise.

What opens up when we think about the desktop as a bedroom?

I like the idea of friends visiting my room, and maybe there’s a cookie jar where they can randomly take a tweet or a photo from a curated collection. What if they could also leave a note for when I return?

Imrie has this concept of each part of the home as serving some physical and mental function:

The digital is (currently) capable of serving the mental. How do we do that better? Along which dimensions?

It’s curious to consider how the digital might provide genuine rest and recuperation. How might such ‘zones’ be reflected in the interface? How can we (users) actively shape such zones?


With how strongly bound the ‘home’ is to our existential senses, it makes perfect sense that it becomes, as Clare Cooper describes, relating to Jung, a symbol for the self.

Beyond the body, she argues, the house is what we frequently select to "represent or symbolize what is tantalizingly Cooper in The House as a Symbol of the Self.

The house has a dual aspect: its interior and façade, at once enclosing and excluding.

More broadly, she describes two notions of the house: house as defensive fortress vs house as expression of self-and-family

So ideally, the home would allow for such dual aspects of retreat (comfort) as well as expression (to be able to represent the unrepresentable).

Returning to the ‘bedroom’ notion, it would make sense to have a ‘private-private’, and an option to have an ‘invite-only private’ that can be more ‘cleaned up’.

That invite-only private space would be one presentation of the self.

What if all those various social medias, each a different mask we create, are connected to our ‘bedroom’ in some explicit way?

By making explicit this singular ‘private’ self that has different ‘public’ instantiations, one effect might be greater salience of the different ‘masks’ that we wear and hold.

This is interesting to me for various reasons, one of which is that it might bring greater awareness to these ideas of being authentic to ourselves, bringing questions of why we are presenting the way we are presenting, and so on.

A Living Room

Expanding the home, what if our room is connected to a ‘living room’? I’m thinking of a more modifiable sort of group chat, with ‘channels’ as rooms.

Maybe on the ‘door’ that connects your bedroom to the living room, some of the material that you’ve collected over the day can show up, and so when they ask you how your day was, you could walk them through all the cool scenery that you’ve come across.

Co-Created Spaces

I want to stay with this idea of co-created spaces for a while longer. At the moment, I think we’ve got maybe three types of co-created spaces on the internet:

The first are internet forums and communities. There’s at least two types.

One is of the Reddit sort where you’ve got moderators that enforce these rules.

Here, I'm thinking about John Brinkerhoff Jackson's public square, with how they do the rules and the wikis as the symbols of what kind of community it is. The idea is that the public square (with its churches, monuments, the-tree-planted-by-the-first-settlers) exists to at once reinforce the individual identity and also to "remind people of their civic privileges and duties — and tacitly to exclude the Jackson in A Pair of Ideal Landscapes.

The other is of the private slacks and discords, Yancey Strikler’s ‘dark forests of the internet’.

The second are spaces created through aggregation, for instance on Twitter — the space that’s ‘created’ is based on who you and who the people you follow, follow. There, you have ‘corners’ of Twitter that all follow one another and have these open back and forths. There’s an evident ‘culture’ that emerges.

The third kind is that of teams/groups/collectives that work together to make a front — usually a website.

When I’m thinking about that living room, and inviting guests over to it — I want it to be something where there’s a stronger sense of co-creation, where just by looking at the space, you get a sense of the different mixes, the different ‘fingerprints’ of people.

Something that’s more of a garden, and less like a lawn. Something that meaningfully evolves over time, less coherent perhaps, but richer and more handmade.

What is a Space Worth Haunting?

Merleau-Ponty has this lovely line where he says that “the body is not in space like things; it inhabits or haunts space”.

How might we make a space that’s worth haunting? More importantly, if we can’t “fashion” the space “in our own image”, can we ever really create a home that we can truly dwell in?

I think that in working on shaping better homes, we can get better at creating other spaces that wrinkles the eyes and make them twinkle.

One day, I’d love to visit everyone’s own unique campfires that affords them the comfort to relish in and freedom to express out the delights of the universe.


I love Molly’s provocation here. What happens when we shift our care from home-type spaces onto other ones? How would we like to ‘dwell’ within those?

Making a Place on the Web

For the final presentation of my Environmental Psychology class, I thought about how some of the ideas we learnt over the semester could be related to the I have a twitter learning thread that summarises concepts I enjoyed from each week. See it here.

I’m naming the cluster of ideas Making a Place on the Web.

I’ve selected and expanded on ~3 main parts from that presentation. Each has its own page.

The first, Home, surrounds ideas on home, the home-as-self, and co-created spaces. I cover a mix of theory from the readings, and loose sketches on ideas like having a central ‘bedroom’ for our digital activities and having ‘living rooms’ that we could share with friends and family.

The second, Garden, thinks through the idea of gardens as a way of organising the digital objects we collect on the web (and comparing them to the ‘lawn’ and ‘wilderness’ modes). It then considers 2 small ways to encourage the ‘gardening’ mode.

The third, Tabs, covers mock designs for a tabs interface. Ideas include links between tabs holding information, multiplayer spaces, and minimaps.

This page also exists as a twitter thread. See that here.