Recognition in the age of online adventure

It does not take much directed experience, either online or face-to-face, to conclude that communication is fundamentally flawed.  Note that I don’t need to say “human experience” of “human communication” because that would be redundant.  Because we are human we cannot speak coherently outside our own experience, and therefore any type of communication is necessarily our own.


Bowman Lake, Glacier National Park.

Why is that, and what importance might these ideas have for outdoor adventuring in the online era?

The first question is most easily answered by mid-20th century philosophy of language, and the idea the language is an act of faith.  When someone says “that lake is sublime,” any efficacy depends on a shared understanding of not only the concept lake, but the concept sublime.  At least a little slippage is assumed and tolerated with qualitative words like sublime, but the ambiguity of what lake might mean is less often considered.  Indeed, any variation in understanding might not be considered relevant by many.  And that would be accurate, quantifing variations between one definition of lake and another is not useful, what is important is understanding the impossibility of doing so.  The more complex and nuanced the concept/emotion communicated, the greater the probability that the differences between what is said and what you experience the other person understanding will be consequential.

Why is this important?  Our default mode of understanding/communicating (yes, they might as well be the same word) is to assume that some thing-in-itself is out there independent of any communication concerning it.  If a lake lies in the woods unseen, yes?  But we humans don’t get upset when our words fail to equal the “Truth” of the thing we’re discussing, we get upset when our words fail to evoke a sufficiently comparable experience in and for the person with whom we’re communicating.


Joy: Easy to understand?

The logical extension of viewing communication as inherently subjective and capitol P problematic, and seeing that any reference to an objective third reality is merely slight of hand, is the idea that existence does not exist without the recognition of other humans.  And by humans I mean other people enough like you.

The relevance of this to the internet’s influence on and place with distinctly analogue outdoor adventure is best seen in the pervasive attitude so lazily expressed by so many: the internet is for gathering beta and tech info, trip reports are ego, and you should go have your adventures and be quiet.

The ego charge is the most absurd.  If communication is so problematic, those best equiped to understand the deeply blended emotions behind our best trips are those who have been closest to those places (physically or psychically) themselves.  With a potential group of hopeful confidants so small, even globally, two conclusions are inevitable.  First, why would you not publicise your doings?  Second, the majority of pseudonymous-via-distance internet feedback is worthless, or at least irrelevant.

Communicating (more prosiacally known as sharing) adventures goes to the very heart of why they remain so popular is a fat age of luxury; they let us know ourselves better.  Denying this cannot but represent a profoundly blinkered attitude towards existence as such.


6 responses to “Recognition in the age of online adventure”

  1. You exhaustively define your premise, and then in the second to last line, you jump to a conclusion not previously touched upon, non-the-less supported… so those who have “been” there understand your adventures better… how does having other people understand your adventures help you understand yourself???

    I would agree with many things you say, communication is problematic for exactly those reasons you dwell on, and yet, isn’t the act of seeking understanding egotistical??? You may not exist “without the recognition of other humans” but considering all recognition will be flawed, why do you value some recognition over others???

    If only those who have been there understand you, then sharing your adventures is inherently an act of seeking others like you… in so far as they are like you, you are seeking others that are the same, you are seeking others that are yourself, and therefore you are seeking yourself, and in seeking their understanding you are seeking your own understanding…

    believing only you can understand, and yet, putting your story out into the world, how is that not egotism???

    I believe, those that charge you (or others like you) with egotism don’t think you do it just for others’ reaction, they understand you do it for yourself, that is the point, you receive something via the sharing (“understanding” or whatever), that is the egotism. You share your stories not because of what others might gain (knowledge, insight, beta, encouragement, inspiration) but because of what you yourself receive via the attention/understanding of others.

    Ending on a personal note – I know you would do what you do whether you got to share it on this blog or not. This blog is what, five/six years old? We have been married for almost 10 years and I have not known your attitude toward the outdoors and outdoor adventuring to have changed in any categorical way because of this blog. The trips you undertook before your online existence were in some ways more “extreme” (life-threatening) than what you do now – certainly when it comes to climbing, free-soloing, etc. I know that you write this blog for yourself, and would write it even if no one read it, and yet you truly appreciate the relationships this forum has allowed you to make and develop – but I also believe you do yourself a disservice when you don’t allow your blog to be a forum in which you are challenged. If you exist only in the recognition of others, do you not exist in a more full and deeper way when said recognition is more multifaceted… dissent included???

    1. That intersubjectivity is the cornerstone of any number of things can be discussed and supported at length, but pursuing any single facet too far becomes tautological. In the end it’s an axiom best accepted because of its explanatory power and the picture of the world which it paints.

  2. I’d be interested to know where you’re encountering the sentiment that ” you should go have your adventures and be quiet.” The Trip Reports forum at BPL is one of the more consistently active, and I follow other blogs that make reports that don’t drop a link there.

    1. A minority opinion on the net, given that expressing it online has onion-like layers of irony.

  3. A complex ideology which I often encounter, and am conflicted with. I for one never took, or even owned a camera prior to blogging….I never told anybody where I was going or what I was up to…The pure and simple emotional response of the terrain traveled through was all that mattered. Whatever happened along the way that led to blogging has to be in some way at some level, an ego related response.

    It’s such a generalization that it covers the general blogging world and probably correct. But what of the handful that share your view? I for one feel, a full circle event coming which will end in a return to the reclusive, ego-less travels of the past. Blogs will sit idle….made private…or simply deleted.

    Mine is very close to that day and I often wonder why the one or two opinions that tug away at my conscience mean so much more than all the fluff of thousands…..

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