Jon-Kyle

Kawara

Within the range of rambles, this is of moderate length, expanding on my last few years and speculating on the next. The back button might be the way to go here.

When describing my time on the Pacific Crest Trail, I often say the defining motif was just how much time there was to think about time. After reaching the halfway point the trail flattened out. The most physically challenging sections were behind me. The difficulty ahead involved staying motivated in such homogeneous terrain.

During that period the question of “what next” began surfacing. Usually after lunch. I’ve been fortunate, in that there has never been any shortage of possibility when asking the question. These new circumstances were personally unique, though, as changes have felt gradual, whereas the amount of repetition in walking everyday, all day, for four months punctuated by a relatively drastic full stop.

One project I found myself returning to while considering all this was Hardly Everything. The first iteration I built around five years ago, and each year or two I revisit the functionality and interface.

The Pacific Crest Trail

Over four months during the summer of 2019 I hiked from the border of Mexico and California to the border of Washington and Canada, a total of 2650 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail. The PCT follows the backbone of three mountain ranges; the Transverse, the Sierra, and the Cascades.

Simple-ish Sites

Never one to leave well enough alone, I’ve made some changes to my personal infrastructure since last time around. As always, it’s not the technology itself, but what it affords which is important. These affordances are not constants, and as the tech has changed over time so too has my position.

I’ll quickly explain the what, and then elaborate on the why.

This site is built with Vue and deployed with Netlify (frontend). The content is hosted with Github. Different than the last stack, but shares a focus on archivability and portability.

Los (Walk)

This video documents another walk across Los Angeles, starting on March 16th (2019) at my front door in Silverlake and ending at Palos Verdes. It lasted 11.2 hours and covered an improvised path of 34.3 miles.

While reading the accounts of a few people who have walked the Pacific Crest Trail it stood out that most of them covered about 30 miles a day. As these walks take place in areas perceived as wilderness, places of immense scale, it was difficult to grok the length. I wanted to substitute the geologic with the urban to relate the distance to something more familiar. Not just as a line on a map, but to spatialize it by placing it within a familiar environment.

The other day I caught a screening of Wilm Wenders’ Notebook On Cities And Clothes at Now Instant. The film follows Yohji Yamamoto as he prepares for an upcoming show and begins with Wilm commenting on image and identity.

We are creating an image of ourselves,
we are attempting to resemble this image…
Is that what we call identity?
The accord
between the image we have created
of ourselves
and … ourselves?

My friends from Code for Science and Society, who are behind the Dat protocol, invited me to lead a workshop at MozFest 2018 in London. I’m an outsider(1) at conferences, but learned MozFest isn’t very much like other technology conferences, the theme of this year being “your data and you.” There was noticeably less hype and self congratulation compared to similar things.

In the week leading up to the workshop I was excited to have Andy Pressman of Rumors working with me to develop the concept. While putting ideas together a source of inspiration was the Internet as a City workshop(2) I attended while at the Decentralized Web Summit earlier this year. What interests me is the the possibility of gaining insight into something as complex as the internet by looking to the city and urbanism as an analog. Particularly when explaining what it means to inhabit networks of both the built and unbuilt environments. I’ve also been reading Slow Manifesto, a selection of entries from the Lebbeus Woods blog. While catching a flight from San Fransisco to London I read the entry about the Buffalo Analog, fortuitously. This paragraph stood out:

Walking the Arroyo

It’s late afternoon in Los Angeles, and my sight has been focused on a screen for a few hours. The same was likely true of yesterday, a choice to manipulate bits of material acting as memory distributed across oceans. Within an environment so abstract there is sometimes difficulty placing oneself within it, both in time (where did it go?) and space (where is here?) It’s hard to pull yourself away. It goes against the use-case.

Five minutes of distraction-free time is difficult when it’s easy to get sucked back in. Taking a break often brings me out to the San Gabriel mountains, visible from my front door some 20 miles away. Being in the mountains deters the impulsiveness. With this being Los Angeles, the distance between my place and a hike is traversed by car and freeway, creating a separation between here and there.

Decentralized Web Summit 2018

For those of us who grew up connected to the Internet, to say the neighborhood looks a little different now is an understatement. There has been unabated progress. Explosive development. Things are a little broken. The possibility of a future techno-pastoralism continues along the cliché of an epic edenic narrative... but perhaps not?

(Above, photo via the Internet Archive)

The Internet Archive is a church, both figuratively and literally. Founded by a ragtag group of custodians to the preservation of an earlier web, it's a retrofitted place of worship whose facade is perhaps most recognizable as the white-columned favicon of Archive.org. It's located on sacred ground in San Francisco, halfway between The Golden Gate Bridge and its namesake park. Here you won't find any future billionaires rich off an IPO outfitted in Acronym(1) and rolling up in Teslas. Instead, the archive is run by volunteers preoccupied with a history of people using technology to connect to each other, regardless of individual ideology or belief.

Mount Whitney: Introduction

Like most trips, there is an option for the drive between San Fransisco and Los Angeles: the scenic route or the fast route, depending upon your disposition.

The former takes you meandering along what is often labeled “the most scenic stretch of highway” in North America, assuming of course the road hasn’t collapsed into the Pacific during one of the frequent landslides, creating a state of seemingly perpetual repair.

The latter provides an expedited corridor via Interstate 5—colloquially “The 5.” Novel the first few times, perhaps if viewed abstractly as an 800 mile line endlessly terminating just out of sight for example, but ultimately a route lined with franchise convenience and designed for speed, traffic willing.

Hardly Following Anything

Often I’ll sit down to write something to publish here, but find my attention drifting elsewhere. Social media platforms and their feeds are a huge personal distraction day to day. So, after fully deleting my Facebook and Instagram accounts about a year ago, I just unfollowed everyone on everything else. I’ll still be checking in on everyone, but at my own speed, and I’ve updated a tool for making that easy.

In the future I’ll be using those platforms for what they have become; essentially personal ad networks. Will continue sharing the more interesting things, but through my mailing list (in the nav above.)

Trans-Catalina Trail

Since moving back to Los Angeles from an extended stay in New York I’ve been out in the forest often. I was there frequently before leaving, too, but it’s different now.

While away I began reading about through-hiking, making your own gear (MYOG), literally watching people just walk around mountains, all to supplement the extreme lack of open undeveloped space. Researching hikes to do once returning home led to rediscovering a multi-day hike across Catalina Island, located just off the coast.

Simple Sites

I want my sites to be focused and simple. Just a bunch of plain text files, some images. I want to turn those files into a site and update them without having to deal with a server, or apis, or build processes. I want it to be a calm thing. I want to share my site peer-to-peer and not depend on a centralized hosting platform. I want it to be easily archivable.

Earlier this year I began working on Enoki, inspired by a few of my favorite tools. It creates static sites with js, using files and folders instead of a database.

Peer Paths

I made a simple single page site as an archive for Peer-to-Peer Web / Los Angeles. The total size of the directory is around 550mb; large for such a simple page as it contains several long video files. Considering the spirit of the project, the videos wanted to be hosted outside of centralized platforms, like Youtube or Vimeo.

Dropout

I’ve been on the internet since I was seven or eight. Got my own machine when I was around ten, a hand-me-down. That’s also around when I stopped going to school. We lived in a small town of around 2500. With a connection the browser was truly my window to the world.

The internet felt really big then.

Platform Death

The other week there were rumors about Soundcloud shutting down. They cut 40 percent of their staff, and word was that they’d run out of money within 100 days.

I was going to write something at that time about the trend of platforms dying, not because they lack vibrant communities, but because those communities fail to hit current astronomical revenue expectations (e.g. Vine).

While talking about this with some of the DAT community, we quickly had the idea to create a js module and page which could scrape Soundcloud pages into DAT archives. So, instead of writing about it, I made a page using Mafintosh’s module (soundcloud-to-dat) to provide a tool to archive Soundcloud tracks and introduce a few people to DAT.

Distributed Now

There was supposed to be a big push yesterday for Net Neutrality. In practice, Google posted a modest blog entry, and a few sites displayed lo-res images. It’s impossible to know how long the open web will last, but clearly the situation as we have known it is not improving.

There are a few projects pointing towards possible futures that have me very excited despite this.