Editor’s note: This is another in a continuing series of essays about the IndieWeb.
Where is the IndieWeb?
One might consider the IndieWeb’s indieweb.org wiki-based website and chat the “logos” of IndieWeb. There is a small group of about a hundred active to very active participants who hang out in these spaces on a regular basis, but there are also many who dip in and out over time as they tinker and build, ask advice, get some help, or just to show up and say hello. Because there are concrete places online as well as off (events) for them to congregate, meet, and interact, it’s the most obvious place to find these ideas and people.
Beyond this there is an even larger group of people online who represent the “ethos” of IndieWeb. Some may have heard the word before, some have a passing knowledge of it, but an even larger number have not. They all act and operate in a way that either seemed natural to them because they grew up in the period of the open web, or because they never felt accepted by the thundering herds in the corporate social enclosures. Many are not necessarily easily found or discovered because they’re not surfaced or highlighted by the sinister algorithms of corporate social media, but through slow and steady work (much like the in person social space) they find each other and interact in various traditional web spaces. Many of them can be found in spaces like Micro.Blog, Tilde Club or NeoCities, or through movements like A Domain of One’s Own. Some can be found through a variety of webrings, via blogrolls, or just following someone’s website and slowly seeing the community of people who stop by and comment. Yes, these discovery methods may involve a little more work, but shouldn’t healthy human interactions require work and care?
The final group of people, and likely the largest within the community, are those that represent the “pathos” of IndieWeb. The word IndieWeb has not registered with any of them and they suffer with grief in the long shadow of corporate social media wishing they had better user interfaces, better features, different interaction, more meaningful interaction, healthier and kinder interaction. Some may have even been so steeped in big social for so long that they don’t realize that there is another way of being or knowing.
These people may be found searching for the IndieWeb promised land on silo platforms like Tumblr, WordPress.com, Blogger, or Medium where they have the shadow on the wall of a home on the web where they can place their identities and thoughts. Here they’re a bit more safe from the acceleration of algorithmically fed content and ills of mainstream social. Others are trapped within massive content farms run by multi-billion dollar extractive companies who quietly but steadily exploit their interactions with friends and family.
All three of these parts of the IndieWeb, the logos, the ethos, and the pathos comprise the community of humanity. They are the sum of the real conversation online.
Venture capital backed corporate social media has cleverly inserted themselves between us and our interactions with each other. They privilege some voices not only over others, but often at the expense of others and only to their benefit. We have been developing a new vocabulary for these actions with phrases like “surveillance capitalism”, “data mining”, and analogizing human data as the new “oil” of the 21st century. The IndieWeb is attempting to remove these barriers, many of them complicated, but not insurmountable, technical ones, so that we can have a healthier set of direct interactions with one another that more closely mirrors our in person interactions. By having choice and the ability to move between a larger number of service providers there is an increasing pressure to provide service rather than the growing levels of continued abuse and monopoly we’ve become accustomed to.
None of these subdivisions—logos, ethos, or pathos—is better or worse than the others, they just are. There is no hierarchy between or among them just as there should be no hierarchy between fellow humans. But by existing, I think one could argue that through their humanity these people are all slowly, but surely making the web a healthier, happier, fun, and more humanized and humanizing place to be.
I’d appreciate others’ thoughts and perspectives on this regardless of where they choose to post them.