Conversation is proximal. Published writing is usually more distal. The author's traditional relationship with an audience is mediated by impersonal entities. Sometimes more tangible transactions occur, perhaps at a book signing, but the interactions are generally straightforward, collective and situated.
Online writing and reading communities graduate from distal to in-your-face. The audience will include people who hate what you write, like what you write, don't care if you write. It will include people who write back. This feels like the play of gravity between planets. The entities are distant, incongruent, intangible and yet their impact is shaping. Language and thinking morphs and moves around a neighbourhood of living text.
I can imagine myself as an applique bird in the corner of a rich old quilt. Lots of recycled fabrics are abutted and blended to make patterns which repeat, approximately, across the full expanse. Each piece is, however, hand sewn and has its own quirks and textures. There are people who are in my offline local community. These people are congruent with the bird. They are the trees, lizards, possums, magpies and dogs which create my context.
The internet folds the quilt about this way and that. So I can also see that the patterns repeat. I can recognise shapes which resonate with my own in other parts of the fabric. Other birds, other shapes tailored similarly to people who are familiar to me. I think these repeating patterns are powerful both because they are similar and because they are individual. The differences teach me ways of thinking about my own context from another perspective. The similarities are affirming.
Perhaps this is a strangeness, but it is an idea which helps me to understand why living text which might bite back is so fascinating, and why paper books are becoming elements I think of as food for conversation rather than as complete self contained stories.
Finding a piece of writing online which is powerful and authentic will often see me searching for an author. Finding a date deceased on Wikipedia feels like a loss. Like a vivid shadow of a missing piece of applique on the background fabric. Perhaps oversown by a new writer inspired by that thinking, but clearly visible as a rich contribution to pattern which is somehow silent.
For me the overall pattern is one around ecology, community, recycling, making, learning and joy of metaphor and language. Perhaps because my interests include ecology I can also imagine a second quilt wrapping around the round shoulders of the earth which is the physical ecology which is woven by our lives offline and the real geography, species and people which make up our corporeal fabric.
The two quilts are different representations of the biosphere. One has only human voices, but the beginning, perhaps, of a more organic or holistic cultural life for our planet.