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Gardens and power

Power dynamics change everything.

2 min read

Manu Moreale discusses the dual use of the garden metaphor for both walled gardens and digital gardens:

It’s interesting how we’re using the same metaphor—the garden—to describe two completely different things. [The walled garden] is the embodiment of the capitalist mindset applied to the digital ecosystem driven by greed. The other is the digital manifestation of personal expression. Digital gardens are—or at least should be—a welcoming place.

It’s an insightful observation, and an illustration of the way power dynamics change everything.

Consider surveillance. We don’t want (and shouldn’t want) the government or big business to understand the nuances of our lives; our comings and goings; who we gather with; the things we say to each other behind closed doors. At the same time, we absolutely do want to understand the nuances of the lives of people with power; their comings and goings; who they gather with; the things they say to each other behind closed doors.

That’s because they have power and we do not. giving them more knowledge about our lives just cements their position; giving us more insight into them gives them more accountability to us.

So it is with gardens. If a megacorporation builds a walled garden, it’s to hem us in. If we build a walled garden, it’s to keep them out.

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