The hour before midnight during a heatwave seems the perfect time for a bit of gentle, low-key identity crisis.
I’m overselling it there, as there is no crisis, per se, but tonight I’ve been doing a bit of waybacking to the golden age of blogging. The content of a dozen or so blogs which still exists in my old Blogger account led me to hit up the Internet Archive to get a decent look at one of them in particular.
Once upon a time, I was part of what I’d termed a “gang blog” centered around discussing the ideas in David Weinberger’s book, Small Pieces, Loosely Joined, along with Weinberger himself, Gary Turner, Jeneane Sessum, Kevin Marks, and several others.
I don’t think meaning happens. I think context happens. I think framework happens, mainly because we don’t live in a world populated only by ourselves, and so there’s a grid of Other People’s Meaning constructed over time and through which we move. But that’s still not inherent in the blank template of the world.
What this lack of inherent meaning offers, IMHO, is the notion of responsibility. We are responsible for what we make and do here, and for the impact [it] has upon ourselves and others.
For me, this is precisely analogous to the contact offered by the Web. [That] same sort of framework exists here, and again created in an on-going fashion by the people here, but there is still no meaning save for that [which] we ourselves decide upon.
Reading words I wrote seventeen years ago, I find two seemingly contradictory things of note.
First, I guess I still agree with the above (although I laugh a bit now that it was sparked by a quote from Hakim Bey), and I do find it sort of weirdly resonant in this current moment of the people behind the companies that eventually won the web taking insufficient responsibility for the ways in which meaning is being constructed here.
Second, I don’t really recognize that person, that me who wrote that. I can’t conjure an internal sense of who he was, or what he was doing when he was thinking these things, or what his life was like, or how he ended up on a blog with a number of the web thinkers of the day.
These things combine for a good example, then, of what I meant when I reacted to that research about what psychologists are terming derailment: I do not have “a constant feeling of me-ness that transcends the various chapters” of my life.
Tonight’s bout of waybacking comes across, then, as rifling through the forgotten papers of a stranger.
I know this was me, but I can’t feel him. It was some other me, and there have been who knows how many others of me in between, and who knows how many others of me still to come.