digital streams, campfires and gardens

There are three ways we consume and create information online: streams, campfires and gardens.

Tom Critchlow summarises how we can build different learning environments across different information consumption time horizons:

Loosely speaking - streams are for fast twitch thinking and acting. Participating in the stream is a fast feedback loop, with a slightly longer undercurrent of connection building.

This is where fast twitch information discovery happens. The firehose of content. But with an undercurrent of creating new connections.

Campfires - mostly blogging. A digital campfire (or a series of campfires) that are slower burn but fade relatively quickly over the timeframe of years. This builds muscle, articulates thinking and is the connective tissue between ideas, people and more. 

Gardens - This is the wiki layer. Curate, connect and explore information. Decades-spanning project of information sensemaking. source

Mike Caulfield also talks about digital gardens and streams in a lot more detail:

Just imagine that instead of blogging and tweeting your experience you wiki’d it. And over time the wiki became a representation of things you knew, connected to other people’s wikis about things they knew.

The predominant form of the social web — that amalgam of blogging, Twitter, Facebook, forums, Reddit, Instagram — is an impoverished model for learning and research and that our survival as a species depends on us getting past the sweet, salty fat of “the web as conversation” and on to something more timeless, integrative, iterative, something less personal and less self-assertive, something more solitary yet more connected.

We create the garden as a sort of experience generator, capable of infinite expression and meaning.[...] building out a network of often conflicting information into a web that can generate insights, iterating it, allowing that to grow into something bigger than a single event, a single narrative, or single meaning.

Links are associative. This is a huge deal. Links are there not only as a quick way to get to source material. They aren’t a way to say, hey here’s the interesting thing of the day. They remind you of the questions you need to ask, of the connections that aren’t immediately evident.

Everybody wants to play in the Stream, but no one wants to build the Garden. source

This Twitter thread from Venkatesh Rao provides some more insight into the time/idea quality horizons shaping our digital knowledge (which is quoted in Tom Critchlow's article):