|The end of another week comes all too fast. Time to ask why, why am I trying to do what I think I'm trying to do?|
Asking "Why?" is not something I do lightly. It is a question asked way too often and answered even more too often. In fact when the weekend started the question was more what than why, what am I really trying to do?
If I was to even start answering the obvious companion question here, listing what I am actually doing in Februaary 2003, it would be a distraction we do not need. What follows is but part.
Life of Pi had been my travelling companion for only a short couple of weeks when it reached the point of needing to be finished in one sitting on Saturday night. The sales clerk at Borders said it was good but different. It was. It is the story of a story, of the kind of story you need when a "truer" story might disable you, but a story which others will surely label "insanity".
More and more I feel confronted by the failed theoretical tension between the debased American notion of sovereign citizens and the destructive European notion of sovereign states. How to get the world to see that we should instead be seeking a 21st century balance between freedom of association and trusted brands?
The PICA System through TransForum 2 has always been a small "p" political system intended to foster conversation and collaboration within a practical data processing environment. This was the dream that connected us to the CSCW community in 1986, a sufficiently common dream to which one then fellow traveller's early answer became Lotus Notes.
Yet the only reason I still want to build the tool is that I don't see any other way to tell the story that begs me to be told, the story that has had a few names, most recently Big Picture. The potency of the open source software movement, even in these early days, suggests that such a story might be better told through collaborative authoring.
The practical question, for both story and software, becomes when to let the respective genies out of the bottle? There is an initial need for design and conceptual integrity, for that essential minimum seed which distinguishes intentional design from the extravagence of nature. There is need to plant and nurture the seed so it can grow, but how soon?
A bootstrap TransForum 2 system is intended to be autocatalytic, but even that bootstrap now needs more than me, and the hardest thing of all is to ask others who might contribute to take even some of my thinking on faith, even if I have been working on the conceptual model since 1981 and testing those ideas against the reality of online communities since 1993, including a few sites using this TransForum prototype.
Suspicion about Steven Wolfram's claim that we will never be able to find anything qualitatively more interesting in the ill mapped boundary zone betwen order and chaos has not just heightened my resolve to tell the Big Picture story but also suggested research directions that might provide interesting applications of TransForum 2.
An easter egg in early MacPaint replacement, FullPaint, long ago provided the hint needed for me to explore some idiosynchratic corners of Conway's Life which I refer to as "atmospheres, borders and bands". I recently downloaded the latest version of Andrew Trevorrow's LifeLab which now includes a long requested tiling feature that greatly simplifies experimentation in my obsure corners, so I was able to start the weekend with more than one new discovery of emergence of novel structures deep in the chaotic interaction between relatively orderly borders and bands.
If there is to be a feature which enables TransForum 2 to gain critical mass, I hope it is its facilitation of a continuum between "them" and "us", a place where we can draw lines in the sand to deflect the worst of the Internet's application as a disruptive technology while doing everything else possible to bring down barriers to entry.
Can I paint enough of Big Picture in one more paragraph? It identifies commonalities and distiguishing features across physical and biological nature, mind, stories and societies. It expounds the value of diversity and the cost of efficiency. It identifies our transformational place in the exploration of possibilities, as close as I ever want to get to answering "Why?" And it appends some suggestions as to what we might do in the Big Picture context.