on websites vs homepages
these words are about the internet.
do we meet in a park, a cafe, a restaurant? do we travel together? call each other over the phone? do you come over to my home, where I might offer you a cup of tea, and a couch to sleep on, if it gets too late?
I don't want to yell out in order for you to visit. I don't want to be a seller, a marketer, a town crier, an advertiser, asking you to listen; nor would I ask that of you. I prefer my connections and interactions to be suffused with sincere curiosity and trustful intimacy -- and to me, these moments are made possible through time, trust, and the absence of expectations or rote formulations and norms that govern the relationships that exist between us and ourselves. I would prefer to explore (myself, yourself) like a landscape. if you choose to take the trek to visit, you are welcome.
not too long ago, if you had a presence on the web, you might have had a "homepage", with a guestbook, and a visit counter. homepage, guestbook, visit counter. perhaps a cheerful gif announcing that it's still (and perpetually) "under construction".
a few images might emerge from this metaphor. you are a traveler on the internet. you visit other people's homes, as a guest. their home on the internet is idiosyncratic, hand-built, modified over time. it isn't meant to be hidden, but there are intimacy gradients, by virtue of it being nestled amongst the hills of a distant domain, and within a site itself, as you tunnel through a particular set of links and pages, nested in folders. is a dwelling public, or private? is a dwelling meant to be seen? perched out on a rocky outcropping? tucked into a forest? the baron in the trees?
each page, each part of the site bears the mark of the state of the builder at the time. hand-hewn. to explore a site is to explore a personal archeology of sorts. buildings built in aggregate, over time. Stewart Brand's Low Road.
and now, social media feels like living in a series of ground floor storefront windows, life as window display. are you being seen? do you know who sees you, and do you care, do you not care? what is inside, what is outside, what is seen to be outside? what is invisibly invisible, in that what's not being shown is itself not being shown? do you pretend that it doesn't matter? are you performer, actor, exhibition, director?
there is always an inside, of course, but what happens when the existence of someone's personal interiority and privacy is excluded from view?
where is the locked door to the bedroom that itself is made visible? a visible mark of privacy is a start of an acknowledgment of interiority. I live here, it says. this room is for me. hello, friend; please don't enter here.
what I loved about the internet was that this all was under constant negotiation and discussion. what is identity? what are the social norms and rules that we exist with, and why? what happens when you're anonymous or pseudonymous on the internet? a masked ball that allows you, not to be "someone else", but allows another part within you to emerge onto a brighter stage. to me, the internet was about identity, self, relation, perception, and redefining the shape of who a person might be, each person busy at the task of crafting this for themselves, from scratch.
in this light, social media seems like a series of experiments became calcified, as if the experiment started pretending that it was the norm. building something isn't easy. building a life ain't easy. building a home to live in? a million different decisions to be made, all full of joy and doubt and regret and happiness, optimism and pessimism. if you want something certain and safe, best to get something off-the-shelf; I understand. I do that too.
but if you want to live a life, to find others who want to visit, to meet another hiker in the landscape, to exist underneath this huge sky, to craft a way of living, to have those conversations that lie underneath this whole world, why not make a home yourself?
you are here, reading this, a person, a person with a home, a life, a set of emotions, a network of relations, a landscape of desires and fears, an atmosphere of beliefs and virtues, a geology of memory, a body of life.
the first principles are these. was there anything else that ever mattered?
thanks for visiting.
scrawled on a phone underground in the nyc subway, april 28, 2023