From my point of view, M.B’s diversity challenge comes out of Indieweb’s own priorities and values. Decentralization, independence, tech-centrality, building your own bespoke blog/website with home-grown/open-source tools… to me, these values originate from a particular paradigm and method of engaging with the world. This paradigm is itself shaped by the wider culture. To put it in reductionist and stereotypical terms, the “self-made” webmaster who builds a self-contained website, independent of the centralized aggregate (and by extension, The Man), using home-grown tools, falls very much in line with the values of the American Dream.
“To put it in reductionist and stereotypical terms, the ‘self-made’ webmaster who builds a self-contained website […] falls very much in line with the values of the American Dream.”
This entire essay is very insightful—and your whole blog has a whimsical and determined air that has me punching my ‘subscribe’ button several times to make sure it does the job.
One question I wonder: while I think the self-made entrepreneur has got to be synonymous with imperialist America—couldn’t the independent autodidact, operating apart from corporate interests, be a modern type of vanguard for the dispossessed? I feel like the Instagram influencer is more a direct descendant of The American Dream; the bespoke blog a piece of the underground press—particularly in 2018, when they have become ancient machinery.
As Chris quotes:
I write it myself, edit it myself, censor it myself, publish it myself, distribute it myself, and spend jail time for it myself.
— Vladimir Konstantinovich Bukovsky, 1942
Perhaps the difference is that the Indieweb has had an “every person for themselves” kind of ethic. There are those who DIY and there are those who GTFO. Whereas underground presses functioned collaboratively. And maybe M.B could be an underground press if it had an editor and it sought out its sources. It feels more like a Lions Club, some casual martinis and a snapshot of the dwindling sun.
I hope that’s no condemnation. I think the underground presses had their coffee houses, which gave you a place to bump into co-conspirators.
But it’s the editor thing that I keep bumping up against on this Web—that we do need more editors, more librarians, more collaboration. We haven’t quite figured out how to organize in structures that benefit, well, all of us. That means starting with the lowest tier. If the library can make a way for books to land in the hands of prisoners, refugees, the poor—then those books can make it anywhere.
And I think this spiritual cause exists in the Indieweb when I see notes like those on Brid.gy’s FAQ entry “How much does it cost?”
Nothing! We have great day jobs, and Bridgy is small, so thanks to App Engine, it doesn’t cost much to run. We don’t need donations, promise.
I feel to inspire readers that might fall across this post—those who can fashion things and who can throw themselves into rebuilding the Web (as if it were Dresden)—to take up this same spiritual cause. To make a generous piece of this crucial public engine. (I realize that this sounds terrifically technopiliac and loathsome, maybe even in a shameful ‘tech bro’ way, but this technology is here, right here, fucking everywhere else too it turns out—so let’s try to find our way, shall we?)
I do think the Indieweb has the glimmer of real answers. But it’s a massive undertaking. But that’s okay—real answers are too.