[A]t least to the more mobile and networked of us, place has become less about our origins on some singular piece of blood soil, and more about forming connections with the many sites in our lives. We belong to several places and communities, partially by degree, and in ways that are mediated(Malcolm McCullough)
I keep imagining a kind of perfect online mobility: not having a website or a singular blog and trying to keep this one plot of web-land mine, but taking all of my content, all of my stuff, with me wherever I go. Finding a way of being on the Internet that better respects the fluidity of self.
I've been thinking about this, thinking that really the closest thing I have to a website that accurately reflects my online presence is my Twitter feed. It's where I post links to my own writing, to others' writing, where I post photos, thoughts, quotes. It's temporary, in a way that seems apt - because let's be honest, most of the stuff I post on Twitter won't matter in a few years or a few weeks or even a few days, and that which does will find a way of living on anyway; it will become part of memory, or conversation, or new work.
And then I was thinking about this: I was thinking about Medium, and Hi, and my continual struggle to find a home for my writing online that feels right (feels write?). The question is, as Nick Rowlands puts it: "How, exactly, do you organize your online presence? Where does your writing live; how is it compartmentalized; to what extent should you strive for an overarching coherence?" My own blog has become a wasteland, a weekly-when-I-can-be-arsed depository for other people's words, and at first I thought this was because I just didn't like the design or the name or the promises it made anymore - that design and that name and those promises belonged to a different, older version of me. When I started my blog I was about to graduate from college, about to move to a new country, about to try to get a job, or into grad school, or something. I was newly in love, and I couldn't see past the next six months of my life: I would graduate, I would move to England, I would move in with him, but then what? We were from different places, and logistics might at any moment demand that we live an ocean apart, and maybe I was too young to be in this kind of love, and... And I knew I wanted to write, but I didn't know what that meant, or would mean. And I read blogs to try to situate myself in the world, to try to find my place, and I posted things on my own blog for similar reasons.
Now, though, if I've written something polished enough to be publishable, it goes somewhere else. I've recently become a staff writer at Vela, which means I get to be part of something bigger than myself on my own. And my thinking goes: if it's not good enough to live somewhere else, somewhere other than this controlled blog-habitat that I've created, then it's just not good enough. In some ways that feels freeing - it's streamlined, simple - but in other ways it's worrying: what does "good enough" mean? Who gets to decide that? Where's the space to write without the pressure of an imagined audience or editor? (Should there even be one? Or is that what the scribbled-in-late-at-night notebook is for? If only I could read my own handwriting.)
So I've been trying to figure out what to do about this - whether to try to change my blog somehow, to redesign it and restructure it in a way that fits now but will probably feel uncomfortable later, or to start (yet another) Tumblr, or to just give up, or what. I don't have that much time to worry about this, to be honest, because there are all these other things vying for my attention: Book! and PhD! and Oh, I Want to Write Another Book! and Holy Crap That Gas Bill is Big! and Other Stuff! So it sort of occupies my thoughts late at night after a few beers as I'm sitting on the couch watching an episode of Criminal Minds or whatever other mindless good-guys-catch-bad-guys thing I can find on Netflix, and I think: I should figure this out. I'll figure it out tomorrow.
But the thing I keep coming back to is this: you know how you take the Internet with you now, on your phone? How you're just walking around with this thing in your pocket, interacting with it when you want to, and that interaction is often rooted in the place you're standing, but not tied to it? That's sort of how I want to be online, too: living in my imaginary Volkswagen bus, taking my possessions (my links, my pieces of writing, my faux-nostalgic photos) with me from place to place.
So maybe this is what Medium is, or what Hi is. This is where we write. This is where we write about place. And what we create here is tied to us, wherever we are. Maybe it's easier to be in the world, and to write about the world, when the tools for doing so are as mobile and networked as we are. "This is a hypothesis about people's relationship to their phones and the places around them," Alexis Madrigal writes. This is a hypothesis about people's relationship to the many sites in their lives, the multitude of polyvocal, perpetually in-process places and communities we belong to -
Or - I don't know. Maybe I'll figure it out tomorrow.