| by Flemming Funch|
So, since last week I'm hooked on microblogging. I don't know if "microblogging" is the best word for the phonomenon, but it will do, I guess. It is sort of a mix between chat, instant messaging, blogging, and widgets for showing one's current status or location in one's sidebar. I'm in jaiku and twitter, accessing both through twitku.
One posts maybe a couple or a handful of one-liners per day. Doesn't really take any time. Although it is a bit addictive to glance at the page often, to see what people are saying. But not that much different from glancing out the window once in a while to see what weather it is. It is sort of a peripheral thing. You notice that somebody's waiting for their luggage in an airport somewhere, somebody else is preparing a gourmet meal, a third is thinking about some important question, and a fourth got a sunburn from being outside. Nothing necessarily important, certainly mostly not anything that would warrant an e-mail or a phonecall or a blog post. But it keeps people on your radar screen. You don't have to respond, but you can, if something somehow rings a bell. It doesn't have to be your close friends either. It is surprisingly meaningful, even if it is people you've never met, but you have some kind of interest in what they're up to.
It occurs to me that it is a bit like Dialogue according to David Bohm. Oh, it is more casual, but there are some interesting correlations.
In this context "dialogue" is used about a particular type of group interaction. A group of people sit down in a circle. Initially they might be quiet. When somebody feels like speaking, they speak, and everybody listens. Nobody needs to answer it, and nobody would argue. But if you're inspired to say something else, you do so. It might have been inspired by what somebody else said, or it might not. Everybody's sort of speaking to the space in the middle of the circle. We might have different ideas about what the subject is, but we're speaking into the same space. And a dialogue develops. It will be about something, and it might not be clear in advance what exactly it will be about. It will not be about one thing, and different people go off in different directions, but there will also be a certain coherence and evolution in it.
In a microblogging space, some of these things happen too. I watch a screen where a few dozen people say something once in a while, and I can say something too. Interestingly, they aren't all watching the same screen, as they have different groups of friends than I do, although they overlap. They aren't all there at the same time either, and they aren't all paying attention. But once in a while somebody feels like saying something. That will be something that relates to what's going on for them at the moment, and it will also be something they feel like saying into that fuzzy kind of space, usually without saying it to anybody in particular. They typically don't expect a response either. Other people do the same. Whether you directly comment on anything else or not, what you say will necessarily be colored a bit by what you see already on the screen.
I have tried in the past to deliberately create dialogue spaces online, usually in the form of a chat room, where I carefully would try to explain the rules. You speak into the common space, you say your truth, you don't argue or defend your opinions. It isn't a discussion, not an argument to win, rather a shared inquiry. No rules, really, other than that you shouldn't screw it up. People can say whatever they feel like saying, as long as it is what they perceive and what they feel needs to be said, and not just an attempt of making somebody else wrong. And I've found that it was very difficult to do online. Easier to do in person, where one has non-verbal cues, etc, and one knows whether one is on the same page or not. But a chat room easily develops into something else.
So, ironically, this kind of microblogging flow is a good deal more like a dialogue than what one would tend to get if one tried to create a good dialogue space online. Even though it isn't at all trying to be any space for deep inquiry or anything like that. It is not very profound that somebody is on their way to the market, or they're playing with some new website or something. But the atmosphere created is a shared space, where people say what they experience, in little soundbites, without fluff, without much need to be posturing or defending anything, and sometimes one perceives things together. And there's some kind of intangible thread that goes through that.
Although it isn't clear where that might take us, it is entirely possible that this might be fertile ground for some kind of collective intelligence to emerge in.