Figuring out life in parcels

Figuring out life in parcels

posted in: PatternWhichConnects, Reflections | 0

It’s been about three years since I began PatternWhichConnects. Exactly how it started I can’t really remember any more. It was probably more of an inkling than a definite idea. At least that’s how I’ve come to think of it: like the spilling over of the pouring rain in a paper cup that someone left on the table outside before seeking shelter. But it did come to involve big, often too ambitious, ideas: a portal for the internet, a libary of online projects, an online hub for my small offline community. Looking back at it now, that initial ambition seems preciously naive, idealistic and unworkable. It goes to show how much I (and the internet) have changed in just three years.

While PatternWhichConnects never materialised in the ways I first had in mind, I wouldn’t be without the initial idealism and naivity: without it I wouldn’t have made the wealth of connections this site opened up. The online, and later offline, meetings, collaborations and friendships that grew from starting the site are invaluable, they’ve become a part of life. And as I gradually learned to let the site develop serendipitously, I became better at striking a balance between ambition, function and workability. PatternWhichConnects in itself became a driver for my work, research and creativity, and the community I encountered through it became a sounding board and a refuge.

It’s a funny thing to look back. A retrospective look caused a mix of smiles, cringe and wowee. The whole thing started off with meeting Mary Midgley, then 91, who told me that “there’s no point in worshipping the human anymore”. It went through events like Surviving and thriving in the Great Transition, the Heart-Mind Computer, Uncivilisation and The Common Room. It wondered about Gaia, beauty, language and art. It kept an incomplete library with books, mixtapes and secret diaries. It went to Greenland and travelled on to see enough of the contours of a collapsing world. Had melancholia and despair cured by rainbows, and began to look beyond the parameters of the game. The conversations that followed developed their own style of dialogue and some of them grew out of time. On the journey I met a man who had rewritten monetary history, a woman who’d seen a deathtrap in Progress and accidentally stumbled into adulthood. I set out camp on a certain mountain and there I learned more than any education could ever afford. I’m slowly learning to listen and to play my own instruments. Acquire my own tools to create new figures of previous patterns.

Over the last three years, I’ve learnt a lot about what being online means, what the virtual world offers and what it can’t deliver. There is much to be said about this. All in due time. For now, I want to offer up the suggestion that it actually isn’t helpful to think in terms of offline vs. online or virtuality vs. real world. That only further separates the stream of life into new subdomains that we then create or enact in our individual lives. Perhaps it is more useful to think of virtuality as a means of amplification. We can then begin to see how being online increases connectivity, speed and the amount of information we process, how virtual temporalities accelerate our experience of time as well as all the implications for our attention and the (in)coherence of our lifeworlds. Most importantly, it gives us an anchor to think about the depth of our online communities.

It is partly out of such considerations that I’ve decided to streamline my virtual life a little. (I’ve often thought about leaving altogether, deleting my facebook profile, ditching Twitter, but all my friends who tried came back and there is not reason why it would be any different for me.) Maintaining PatternWhichConnects so that it is an enjoyable and worthwhile experience to check in every so often became too time consuming. That’s why I’m now, until some unknown point in the future, archiving the back end of the site (the part I’ve built in iWeb). That’s everything but this blog – I’ll keep Remembering and cross-post stuff from other sites to here. All the material I’ve put up will still be there, ‘archiving’ simply means finally recognising I can’t develop the site further.

Another reason for re-organising my online home is that I’m in the middle of writing up my thesis and am beginning to look towards a post-PhD life. For this, I thought it might be useful to have an online first stop for my work. So I’ve set up refiguring.net which is a kind of portfolio of what I do. It connects up my various virtual presences. At the same time, this has been a chance to focus my writing on some of the themes around the emergence of new ways of living, seeing and thinking that have recurred on this blog. Refigurations is a thinking-aloud blog about sense-making in a time characterised by crisis in meaning.

I’ve also put up a few other things on refiguring.net. I tell a bit of my online story and share some of the things I’ve learnt along the way. In an attempt to keep track of all the kind of stuff I would have put in my library on PatternWhichConnects, I’ve set up a Tumblr microblog to go with the new site: refiguring.tumblr.com. You’ll find links, quotes, articles, and other refigurings on there. I’m new to Tumblr and haven’t really found my way around yet, so if you already have an account let me know so I can find you.

Please share and bookmark these new sites – you can also subscribe to Refigurations by sending me an email.

In other news, developments in firstlife have taken me to Germany where I’m currently writing up my thesis and trying to find a place for all my boxes. But that’s a story for another time.

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