The Technium

Chips of Broken Glass

Last weekend it was cool, gray, misty. We took a two hour stroll along the beach at low tide. It was perfect.  The fog was comfortable and comforting. In the pewter light a father and his young daughter were picking up shards of weathered glass from the sand. We looked over their handful. “It’s sea glass, ” he said.

Sea glass? These bits have a name!?

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Now that we had a search image we saw “sea glass” everywhere. We soon had a pocket full. Here’s our haul:


A name yields knowledge. When I got home looked up sea glass. Aha!  There are books. There are collectors. There’s a national association of collectors. And standards for colors. There’s a annual convention of sea glass collectors and trade show (next one is in Delaware in October).  There are enthusiasts, professionals, feuds. Anything of perceived value will have fakes and counterfeits, and sea glass has those too.

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Maybe this network existed before the internet, but I doubt it. Most sea glass found is decades old, taking years tumbling in the waves to smooth to a satin finish. So sea glass has been found forever. But before the network age it was a secret discovery, a private hobby.  Collecting it was a quirk.

Now chips of broken glass is a sub category in the long tail. It is an activity tracked by the One Machine. In the goodness of time, the web will embrace even the smallest thing we give our attention to. If chips of broken glass don’t escape the web’s gaze, what can?


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