Archives for posts with tag: Cowbird


The early stages of the digital revolution was led by programmers and computer scientists. One of the most important outcome of the last years was replacing the need for privacy with the need for visibility. While this exchange has many benefits, it doesn’t help people to develop original thoughts.

I’m not handwringing or whining about this outcome, but I believe we’ve gone too far. The visibility and connectivity bubble is about to deflate and we’re about to enter the age of digital enlightenment. Programmers and computer scientists will continue to be an important force in the digital revolution; leadership will come from thinkers, intellectuals, artists and storytellers. These people are driven by an emerging vision that’s much more individualistic, centered around humanity, intimacy and, yes, feelings instead of connecting the world into a data-driven monster.

Sharing has become a robot-like behavior

More and more people retweet links without even reading them. Check-ins on Foursquare have become bot-like behavior, Facebook should change its brand color to pink: it’s a unicorn world. Meaningful conversations are uncommon on any of our favorite platforms. The whole idea of conversations has turned into a huge echo chamber, filled with people backslapping each other: You think like us and you’ll be part of us.

The Web will gain in importance over time: Our kids will live on it, learn from it, get most of their information from it. I’m not interested to see our future grow up in a virtual echo chamber where being more equal than anybody else is being rewarded.

The mindful Web

There’s a reason why people need to take a sabbatical from the web. It’s exhausting to exist in the echo chamber, being reactive and celebratory. Once in a while we need to take some time to think.

Who said it has to be that way? Shouldn’t we design technology that makes us much smarter, supports constructive dialogue, filled with quality content and intimacy? Less immediate gamification gratification, more different points of views.

We see the beginnings of this new age: Brainpickings, Cowbird, Twenty@. We’ll see if any of these will pan out but as long as we’re trending towards a more balanced digital world, we’re going to continue to see brighter lights. A digital world that teaches us, just like we learned to respond. And marketers, as the Zeitgeist amplifiers, will play their part by intensifying the new habits and behaviors.


I’m a big fan of Jonathan Harris. Ballons of Bhutan, Today and my favorite: We feel fine. His overarching theme is to capture and preserve memories and emotion from life’s most fleeting moments.

Recently, Jonathan Harris released Cowbird, a platform that hopes to unite storytellers in the process of deeply documenting not just their own lives, but the larger overarching sagas around them.

His goal is to offer a platform for the sort of longer, richer and multilayered stories you’re not going to find on your typical social platforms. The site states: “We’re trying to preserve and evolve the dying art of storytelling using technology as friend instead of foe.”


At the moment, the focus of the site is on The Occupy Movement, tapping individual experiences to depict a richer, more meaningful picture of our collective experience. A fascinating experiment.

And, why the name Cowbird? To represent the best attributes of its namesakes: “the slow, deeply rooted contemplative idea of a cow with the fast, efficient playful idea of a bird.”

In a Fast Company article he describes the idea behind the platform: “It wasn’t clear to me how there was going to be another level of compression after tweets, unless we reverted to monosyllabic grunts,” Harris says. “I thought we would hit some kind of wall, bounce back in the other direction, and people would start craving a little more depth.”


“We all have unique experiences and if we don’t pass them on, they evaporate when we die,” Harris says. “If there were a way to embody some of that wisdom so that other people could learn from it, that would allow us to grow on an individual level, but also a species level, from generation to generation.”

By encouraging people to document and catalog these experiences. Cowbird has the potential to become an organic anti-panopticon, capturing the stuff of life that can’t be sufficiently synopsized. Harris is confident that this is something people will want to do. “It’s asking something very different than firing off a tweet from your cell phone,” he says. “It ask a lot more of you as a storyteller, but I think it gives back a lot more too.”

A wonderful project.