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.
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.
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?
too many tech products trying to be a 'home' and not enough aiming to be a studio, treehouse, greenhouse, garage, shed...— Molly Mielke (@mollyfmielke) October 18, 2021