Streams expose us to a unique experience

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In other words, the Stream replaces topology with serialization. Rather than imagine a timeless world of connection and multiple paths, the Stream presents us with a single, time ordered path with our experience (and only our experience) at the center.

In many ways the Stream is best seen through the lens of Bakhtin’s idea of the utterance. Bakhtin saw the utterance, the conversational turn of speech, as inextricably tied to context. To understand a statement you must go back to things before, you must find out what it was replying to, you must know the person who wrote it and their speech context. To understand your statement I must reconstruct your entire stream.

[@mikecaulfield2015The Garden and the Stream: A Technopastoral]

When we maintain a dialogue with someone else, we do it in turns, and therefore we build arguments sequentially. We can't go back to what we discussed one month ago and re-build the dialog, updating our knowledge, we just drop it and, at best, start over again. This the stream, and this is what happens online. The context of a link shared, of words typed down are time based and are unique to the person writing it down. No one else will have access to the same context.

So in 2006 or so Twitter, Facebook and other sites move to a model directly inspired by this personal page + feed reader combination. You have a page which represents you, in a reverse chronological stream — your Facebook page or Twitter home page.The pages of people you are friends with get aggregated into a serialized time ordered feed. Your Stream becomes your context and your interface.

And we see that develop into the web as we know it today. A web of “hey this is cool” one-hop links. A web where where links are used to create a conversational trail (a sort of “read this if you want to understand what I am riffing on” link) instead of associations of ideas.

The “conversational web”. A web obsessed with arguing points. A web seen as a tool for self-expression rather than a tool for thought. A web where you weld information and data into your arguments so that it can never be repurposed against you. The web not as a reconfigurable model of understanding but of sealed shut presentations.

I think this is a crucial point that exemplifies why the web does not resemble the memex, and makes it dead clear the difference between the garden or the stream. If we experience the stream from a unique perspective, we won't be able to relate (at least not knowingly) to the experience of anybody else.

And this is something that becomes patent in the movie "The Social Dilemma". All the argument is given from a single-point perspective. Probably all the people interviewed never suffered from harassment or bullying. Their lives were not threatened by their online activities. They experienced the stream in a unique way, and they come with solutions which are partial to those experiences.

However, I don't think blogs broke the internet. It was the lack of incentives (perhaps because of technologist lacking the intellectual abilities to think differently) that pushed people into a unique, stream-like, consumption of content and generation of knowledge. We can't neglect the physiological impact that likes and shares have on our brains. Even if they didn't know it before hand, they sure optimized for it (see: Simple explanation of an optimization algorithm).


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Aquiles Carattino
Aquiles Carattino
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