Collaborative Building as Conversation
In October 2008 I attended a conference in Copenhagen. While I was there, I witnessed an intriguing event. Several tables had been set out in the public square in front of the old City Hall. These tables were covered with piles of white Lego blocks. Although there were no signs explaining what this was about, people walking by took it as an open invitation to build something. And build, they did. A compelling skyline soon emerged as individuals and small groups assembled inventive towers and other structures. The city of bricks grew quickly and changed constantly. Soon, there was a shortage of bricks and some things had to be torn down to enable the building process to continue. Although there was the odd act of vandalism, beautiful structures were, for the most part, left alone, surrounded by the remains of buildings that were judged to be less worthy. It was understood that the goal was to create a beautiful and long-lasting statement. Replace the blocks with digital artefacts and the tables with screens and you have the Internet. The difference is that taking a block from an existing work is an act of replication, not destruction. It is a form of reference (even reverence). There is no limit to the supply of blocks or tables. Nothing is lost and nothing is forgotten.