The essay by Maria Farrell and Robin Berjon on “Rewilding the Internet” is absolutely essential — and you might know that I would think so if you read my essay from a few years back on “Tending the Digital Commons.” (See also my reflections on “manorial technocracy” and the tag, visible at the bottom of this post, “open web.”) Our metaphors are slightly different but our theme is the same. 

It’s noteworthy, I think, that those of us who care about the internet and love the best versions of it tend to think ecologically

Farrell and Berjon: 

Ecologists have re-oriented their field as a “crisis discipline,” a field of study that’s not just about learning things but about saving them. We technologists need to do the same. Rewilding the internet connects and grows what people are doing across regulation, standards-setting and new ways of organizing and building infrastructure, to tell a shared story of where we want to go. It’s a shared vision with many strategies. The instruments we need to shift away from extractive technological monocultures are at hand or ready to be built. 

Just as a diverse “pocket forest” is the surest way to regenerate urban vegetation, a global network with multiple different ways “to internet” is the best insurance policy for future innovation and resilience. We need to rewild the internet for the future, for our freedom to build tools and spaces, and to share knowledge, ideas and stories that haven’t been anticipated by the internet’s current overlords and cannot be contained. 

This is precisely why this blog is on the open web rather than on Substack or any of the other walled gardens. To be sure, I can afford to do it this way, with the occasional contribution from my Buy Me a Coffee page — I have a day job and don’t depend on blogging to feed my family and pay my mortgage. If I were utterly dependent on this blog I might do things differently — but only after I had tried every way possible to make it work on the open web. 

I really do think that the internet, in its original open form, is an amazing thing and a genuine contributor to human flourishing — but the occlusion of the open web by the big social media companies has been a disaster for our common life and for the life of the mind. My plan, and my hope, is to keep going here long after I have lost the ability to publish anywhere else. This is my home on the web and also the place where I can most fully be myself as a writer. And that’s worth a lot