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What is the purpose of this website?

What is the purpose of this website?

This post is part of the { Website } series.

I largely quit social media because it transformed from being something that helps me keep in touch with people and that stimulates social interaction, to an endless stream of promoted clickbait content. The little “real” personal content that made it to my feed, was usually dull and did not facilitate any interesting conversations. With the creation of this website I’m trying to take control of my online identity, making this domain a main hub for various dispersed identities, somewhat along the lines of these principles.

Being free to do with this website what I want in a way that is meaningful for me, gives me joy. In addition, this website really is personal because I built it myself, which comes with a sense of pride (in the positive sense of the word). This is my first website, and I had no idea what I was doing when I started out. I had never written any html or css, but with the help of a friend during a nightly Skype-session (during which he fell asleep) I had a very simple one page site online within a few days. It was really, really bad. But it was out there, and it was mine. Over time I kept incrementally improving on it bit by bit, and by now I’ve reached a point where I’m quite content with the websites’ features and its minimalistic look (although I’m constantly fighting the urge to delete almost all css and go barebones). By now, I even find myself stimulating others to make their own personal website, and helping them out in the process. Over the last weeks, I helped my friend and philosopher Boris make his own website. I know that for the average philosopher all hands-on tech stuff is, well… Let’s just say in general they like thinking about technology more than using it. If you keep your website simple enough however, you can learn to maintain it yourself, even if you are a philosopher. Even although it might be a bit rough in the beginning, it will have all the more charm because it is authentic. Especially for academics, sober (or one might say: Spartan) websites have a long history (see for example this article. We need people to make their own websites again to keep the web an interesting and diverse place, and offer some resistance against the boring uniformness of yet another generic Wordpress blog or Facebook page. Boris’ work and thoughts are interesting and deserve a cool website. He published his new website last week, and I’m convinced it’s the beginning of a nice digital journey where a lot will be learned. Check it out here.

Anyways, the bottom-line is that what makes my website personal for me is not only that it contains personal content, but that it facilitates more meaningful interaction with people than so-called “social” media (and that does not mean more interaction). For me, the point of my blog is to help me shape my thoughts on topics of interest, but specifically in such a way that I can involve others in this process. The overarching goal is to enable dialogue and interaction with other people through a sensible digital identity, whether that means reinforcing existing relations or perhaps making new ones. I currently play with the idea to represent some of this dialogue directly on the website itself, by also allowing others to post on my domain, which is in the spirit of my plea that more people should have their own little place on the web. In short, I want to offer digital residence to friends on my domain. I do not yet completely know how this will work out, but my current experimental idea is this:

  1. Friends/acquaintances can write a post on a topic reflecting a shared interest. My interests are very broad, so finding such a common interest should not be too hard.
  2. I will publish the post, unless I consider it completely unsuitable to be associated with my name.
  3. My role in the process ranges somewhere between a minimal form of redaction, and full cooperation in writing the post.
  4. In return, each contributor gets their own home page on this domain. This homepage lists all their contributions, and apart from that they are free to do with it as they please. (Technically, this amounts to giving them their own branch on the Github repo of this site)

I made an example of such a homepage here.

As for the content of the blogs, I consider them to be an exercise in imperfection. They are not as unstructured as notes, but neither are they fully developed like articles. They are somewhere in between, more like essays in their original sense: they are attempts, exercises in writing and thinking that do not shy away from incompleteness. It’s yet another reason why I like to think of them in terms of a dialogue: in real conversations answers are not known in advance; they can be confused, open-ended. It is no coincidence that blog writing has such a conversational style. It reflects thinking on-the-way (yes, that is a reference to Heidegger), and in one sense it is a text that ideally does not want to be written down. Its conversational style is a resistance to the suggestion of completeness that accompanies writing, and tries to be spoken language: a voice amongst other voices.

For me personally, perfectionism has in the past prevented me from daring to publish or submit anything. An additional benefit of these blog posts is that they are a good exercise in letting go. I write them as quick as possible and then immediately publish them, to avoid that they stay on the shelf. There is another benefit: I have struggled the last years with formulating the relevance of philosophy. After starting a second university education, I have come to the belief that philosophy is at its best when it does not only engage with other philosophers, but (also) engages with other disciplines, shaping and enriching them from within. I hope that as this blog develops, it will be a testimony to this thought.