Milton Jang

Digital Gardens

People are creating an internet that is less about connections and feedback, and more about quiet spaces they can call their own.

Tanya Basu via MIT Technology Review

Welcome to the world of “digital gardens.” So, what exactly are “digital gardens”? According to Tanya Basu, they’re simply personal sites where digital gardeners (site owners) don’t follow rules. Before I go into anything, let me say this: Tanya, please explain what these rules are exactly. I have no idea what you’re referring to so now I’m left to go off of my own assumptions.

Oh? Could you speak a bit louder? … I still can’t hear you, up the volume like 5000 notches will ya? Oh wait, how silly of me, I’m not going to get a response.

The main difference between blogging and digital gardening, as told by Tom Critchlow, is that “with blogging, you’re talking to a large audience, [and] with digital gardening, you’re talking to yourself,” or more accurately, writing to yourself.

So, in a way, you can almost think of digital gardens like your backyard garden at home. That thing is yours. It’s in the physical confines of your property that you own (or are still paying off). You can plant whatEVER you want in your garden and not give a flying Frappuccino what the next-door neighbor thinks—unless you’re growing weed or something of the sorts illegal in your city. You went to Hawaii this summer and want a palm tree in your igloo in Nunavut? Ship it. You want to plant cocoa beans because you just think they look nice? Awesome. I don’t care what you do with your garden, and neither should you care about mine.

Photo by Arvin Putra Pratama on Unsplash

The matter of caring, however, becomes more important when things get public. First and foremost, there are rules—well hallelujah Tanya, there’s that word again! Managing a blog is like taking care of the greenery and plantation in Singapore’s Jewel Changi Airport. As the landscaper and gardener in charge, you can’t do whatEVER you want. Why? Because it’s not your home, it’s public property. You have to pick and choose shrubs, trees, vines, and flowers that work well together to create a pleasurable experience for visitors. Even if you’re a die-hard fungus lovin’ enthusiast, you can’t secretly stay overnight and fill the place with all your favorite species of mushrooms. You’d get caught bright and early in the morning.

But wait, there’s a third side to the coin. You’re saying, “Milton, coins only have two sides to them,” and you’d be right. You’d also be wrong in forgetting that a coin has depth. We live in a 3D world friends.

The third side of the coin is where you have the power to control the shrubbery of public spaces to your own liking. Being a digital gardener pruning the front yard garden of your home rather than the backyard garden would fit this criterion. Your front yard garden is still within your property, just more publicly exposed. Go ahead, make your front yard into a vineyard, make some wine, then throw a party for the whole neighborhood. People would have to endure whatever sight you got going, but let me say this. I’d rather a horrendous mess, an overgrown jungle, or even a vineyard for that matter (because I’d think probably think you’re super interesting) rather than a flat rectangular patch of grass in front of your house—now that’s just boring. And if you’re the owner of the Jewel Changi Airport? Screw it. Plant 200,000 sunflowers. How beautiful of a sight that would be.


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