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Updated: 1 Aug 2022

Over the past few months, I've been spending more time thinking with new people. Mostly over iMessage or Slack, sometimes synchronoulsy, and in all instances without a clear goal in mind for what we're trying to accomplish or make together.

I feel inspired by these interactions. They feel magical and fleeting to me. I think of them as chance meetings: we are people happening upon one another in the same space, guided by shared curiousities, who do not yet know where we are, what we're looking for, or how long we will stay.

With all of this "floating, I've' noticed myself wanting to bring some definition to these activity spaces.[i]

A particular moment when I feel a need for some agreement or shared expectation is around sharing. Specifically, when I happen upon an idea, question, quote, etc. that resonates with me and I think relates to the space we're exploring together.

In these moments, I feel an instinct to share.

Sometimes when I share, the other person will be there and we'll start exploring together.

Sometimes when I share, the other person won't be around and when they get back they'll say something to the effect of, "Neat. I'll think about/look at this soon."

And then other times I won't share because I want to avoid a scenario like second one above where the other person could feel a burden/responsibility to engage with what I've shared.

This third scenario is of concern to me because I worry that these kinds of interactions cause the space to slow down, where the arrival of a notification feels more like "to do" and less like "ah ha.".

So, to hedge against "3.", I've started to bring language to what I am and am not communicating when sharing.

A metaphor Laurel and I are trying on to establish a shared set of expectations around this particular aspect[ii] is that of a stream:

We are each moving about a steady flow. Sometimes in a position to catch a glance at what is floating past, at other times situated to reach in and pick up with we see before it floats by and escapes us.

So far, I've found the "stream" to create the kind of space and lightness I was hoping for. It's also empowered me to be more explicit when there is something specific I would like to explore toghether. I'm curious to see how other people experience the explicitness I tend towards...I appreciate there is a delicate balance between constraints that "open up" and "close down" exploration.

i. "An activity space is partly a mental projection on the part of the agent, partly a system of hard constraints imposed by the physical layout, and partly a set of logical dependencies dervied from the sub-goal structure of the task itself." David Kirsh in Changing the Rules: Architecture and the New Millenium

ii. "Thus a metaphor works when it satisfies a purpose, namely, understanding an aspect of the concept." Mark Johnson and George Lakoff in Metaphors We Live By

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