Talking with Blocks

When you talk with people, overlap is bound to happen. Patterns emerge that connect disparate conversations together. How do you keep track of those connections in a cogent, meaningful way?

It could start with where the conversation happens.

I've been experimenting with using Are.na as a chat room. Conversation is had between text blocks that are exchanged in a channel for a span of time. After the conversation is finished, I use a script that imports the channel from Are.na to a blog post like this.

After having three conversations so far, I noticed that they kept drifting to the topic of tinkering on the web — whether messing with a theme or writing a lightweight web app to interact with your blog. How could I collect each of these instances of tinkering? Are.na's superpower is that a block can be connected to multiple channels. So all I have to do is create a separate channel dedicated to tinkering on the web. Now, if I notice a moment in a past Are.na conversation that highlights the topic, I add it to the topic's channel. Now the text block sits in the middle of a Venn diagram — both part of a chat log and part of a curated selection from conversations I have.

This simple gesture expands the meaning from which I can gather from conversation online. Not that the point of conversation is to ring it of value. The practice is valuable in and of itself, but my default position is often that of the sieve. Morsels of memory remain embedded in my mind but not for long — I soon forget them. And perhaps that is baked in so that I can continue to converse with people about the same things, lest I end up like Borges' Funes. However, I wonder if there is something to extracting a piece of conversation and using it like a theme upon which infinite variations can exist, as a first-class citizen on the web rather than a passing remark. The web already functions like this in many ways, but I think there's always room for purposeful experimentation.