Thank you so much again for taking the time to create space for this dialogue, CJ! I thoroughly enjoyed reflecting upon your thoughtful questions and look forward to continuing our exchanges elsewhere (or maybe even here! Perhaps I will interview you next time hehe). Not only did this prompt me to ponder more deeply about these topics out loud (and in an intriguing format), but also imparted some of the real warmth of qualitative, open social connection in the process--which is, in my experience, often very elusive both on- and offline.

I think that drawing attention to this concept of "community gardening" is a really wonderful way to close our discussion. It also brings me back to thinking about the words which we use to describe our online activities and experiences. So to answer your question, I want to start by pausing to reflect upon these two words: "community" and "gardening". Both are commonly understood in a simple, straightforward way, but I would again suggest that it's worth digging into our terminology a bit more deeply in order to approach 'community gardening' as a broader concept more meaningfully.

When we talk about "community", it's important to first acknowledge that there will always be a vast terrain of manifestations rooted in this term. One community's particular set of values & interests will be fundamentally different from (and potentially incompatible with) many others. As such, what it means to nurture and cultivate any given community will always vary contextually. Taking another step back, it's worth noticing that communities are not just networks of people, but also the spaces which they inhabit and activities which happen within those spaces.

(From this vantage point, I find it's helpful to consider what an inviting or healthy community feels like in the offline world. Again, this will vary greatly from person to person - but I think taking time to reflect upon what aspects stand out as distinctively positive and negative is a useful way of becoming grounded in lessons from lived experience beyond our screens.)

Now on to the "gardening" aspect. Gardening is an activity which begins with a recognition of what is currently growing or not growing in a particular environment, and a consideration of how that ecosystem might be changed 'for the better' based upon a certain values framework. Notice that I used the terms "environment" and "ecosystem" here, which I've noticed being increasingly incorporated into discussions of web platforms/experiences in recent years (this is probably a good sign). In the same way that a community is not just a network of people, neither is the web just a network of wires & signals which link people together. It is a space within which there are varying 'ecological' conditions and propensities. Some communities will thrive in one landscape and wither in another, and some landscapes are more open to 'biodiversity' than others.

Sustainable community gardening for me means finding ways to match & balance these sets of considerations through an ongoing process of individual & collaborative experimenting, exploring, and negotiating. Experimentation with different tools and techniques enables us to better understand what relationships, activities, and creations can grow in a given environment--while also expanding our collective knowledge. Exploration helps us become aware of alternative spaces/communities with ecological conditions & propensities which may better suit our needs & hopes (and perhaps prompt us to reconsider our desires as well). And negotiation serves as a means of finding compromises and reconsidering norms to accommodate greater diversity & adaptive resilience.

Taken together, my sense is that these actions inevitably lead us away from passive acceptance of flattening hegemony as the default mode of being on the web and toward an active process which enriches the landscape with a wider array of community gardens. This, in turn, empowers us to take better care of our 'personal gardening' needs as well.

In short, for me, community gardening highlights the intrinsic symbiosis between resilient social networks and the environments within which they thrive as a means of developing practices, spaces, & tools that nurture autonomy & sustainability.

At least, that's what comes to mind right now. Ask me again in six months and I'll likely have a very different answer ;^)

p.s. For anyone who wants to dig more deeply into these ideas (and read alternative perspectives which far predate my awareness of the term 'community gardening'), I highly recommend visiting the #community-gardening thread in the Scuttleverse where you can also add your own thoughts!

Seán ⠀
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