Come for the network, pay for the tool ⊗ Stories on Earth ⊗ The paradox of individual creative work — No.135

Read the Sentiers newsletter on technology in society, signals of change, and prospective futures.

This week → Come for the network, pay for the tool ⊗ Stories on Earth: A collective voice for the human and non-human ⊗ A moment of reflection: On the paradox of individual creative work ⊗ ‘Defund the police,’ ‘cancel rent’: The left remakes the world

A year ago → Progress and its discontents.

Come for the Network, Pay for the Tool

Great piece by Toby Shorin who makes a well argued case for paid communities sitting at the intersection of social networks, content, and commerce. He looks at the various ways the word “community” is used, at the evolution of those communities within or alongside social networks, large media outlets, brands, microbrands on Instagram, newsletters, streamers, Patreon, and a lot more besides. Shorin concludes that the time is ripe for tailored online platforms catering to the specific needs of communities, and supported by paying members. I also appreciated the conclusion where he states that “[m]ost business writing lacks a meaningful engagement with the question of whether the strategies, tactics, and trends on offer are good, in a larger and longer term sense. It is negligent not to address these questions.” He’s perfectly right, and goes on to consider how some future purveyors of “bespoke social networks” might consider and care for the communities they attract.

Sidenote → Just as bundles of paid newsletters are starting to pop up, I’m wondering if curators / aggregators / writers might regroup to bring their communities together (when compatible in interests and needs) in one place, instead of an ever expanding landscape of small custom social networks.

To me “community” implies users regularly engaging with each other, a criterion which indicates that the “regular crowd” at neighborhood joints or local skate shops are much truer communities than most online brands. […]

[F]undamentally, they are still based on chat, and chat simply isn’t the right core user experience for many other communities. Unique functionality and bespoke interfaces provide distinct advantages that off-the-shelf tooling can never achieve. […]

Because in a very real way, the financial and social sustainability of paid communities will depend on the degree to which the communities are recognized not as a monetizable resource but as a body of people with social needs, emotional lives, and practical concerns of livelihood. […]

Success here will come down to implementation details. The incentive structure, funding sources, size, goals, moderation approach, and community management philosophy of these networks will determine their long term viability as both businesses and communities. […]

We are transitioning from an era of centralized management of human development and financial capital into an era where both identity formation and resource allocation happens in decentralized, loosely-coordinated, and emergent ways.

Stories on Earth: A Collective Voice for the Human and Non-Human

Failed Architecture is preparing a project for the Venice Biennale 2021, this is an interview with the designers and writers who will collaborate with them. Interesting in part because they are answering as “one composite voice about nature, humanity, and storytelling.” And in part for the message itself, to consider “the inherent interrelationship between humans and the non-human.”

My goal is to strengthen this relationship by designing narratives and making books that explore past, present and future ways of inhabiting the landscape. […]

[S]mall observations in daily life are often a first step towards awareness of wider phenomena. That is why truly intersectional thinking doesn’t just stop at considering relationships between identities or individuations in the present, but rather considers histories and possible futures as well. […]

This crisis has already made it clearer than ever that we share the same planet, air and public spaces. It has given us all an opportunity to reevaluate our freedom and the importance of human interaction.

A Moment of Reflection: On the Paradox of Individual Creative Work

Jason Kottke citing The Art Assignment’s Sarah Urist, and expanding a bit, but mostly resonating with what Urist is saying. It’s a quick read and not much longer video on the challenges and perhaps opportunities of curating ideas, bias, going for clicks or to push the audience further, comfort zones, the frivolous and the important. Recommended for those sharing things and asking themselves questions, as well as good bits of a framework for how to think of what you share if you want to start creating content.

I’ve also learned that these biases are often reinforced by the recommendation algorithms that govern the platforms we frequent. Whether we want to or not, we citizens of the internet work in collaboration with these algorithms to curate information feeds for ourselves. And even if our feeds feel objective, they never are. […]

But because I know what tends to get clicked on more and watched for longer stretches, I’ve been more likely to try to serve that to you. Not all the time of course, but even when served in moderation that’s not really good for art history. It reinforces dominant narratives and offers up the same boring old menu of famous artists again and again.

‘Defund the Police,’ ‘Cancel Rent’: The Left Remakes the World

Amna A. Akbar, law professor at The Ohio State University, who studies leftist social movements shows how the movements to defund the police, cancel rent, and a Green New Deal are connecting, feeding into each other, and presenting a new leftist perspective that is advocating structural change, not incremental adjustments.

[T]he people making these demands want a new society. They want a break from prisons and the police, from carbon and rent. They want counselors in place of cops, housing for all and a jobs guarantee. While many may find this naïve, polls, participation in protests and growing membership in social movement organizations show these demands are drawing larger and larger parts of the public toward a fundamental critique of the status quo and a radical vision for the future. […]

The demand for defunding calls into question the fundamental premise of policing: that it produces safety. It urges us to take collective responsibility for collective care, repair and redress. […]

Leftist movements today see our crises as intersectional. Police violence, global warming and unaffordable housing are not disconnected, discrete problems; instead, they emerge from colonialism and capitalism. Organizers recall these histories, and tell stories of freedom struggles.

Our Ability to Process Information Is Reaching a Critical Limit

This will not be super new to anyone, since we are all dealing with it, but an interesting piece nonetheless on how “everything is happening so much,” and neither us as individuals or media organizations have the time to properly process and analyse what’s going on, opening the door to stress, anxiety, fake news, and important issues disappearing from the conversation too quickly. Don’t doomscroll, friends!

“Our research has shown that negatively valenced news conveys that negativity to the consumer and makes them feel more anxious, stressed, or even depressed, and this negativity then feeds into their own personal worries and concerns which makes people worry for longer and often worry catastrophically.” […]

Give someone enough time to process what they’re reading, and they’re more likely to believe the truth… But time is an increasingly rare commodity.


  • I’ve already seen it shared a few places but I like so to make sure you’ve seen it too: WindowSwap lets you “[o]pen a new window somewhere in the world.” Try to get to Simone’s window in Villongo, Italy for some peace and a gorgeous view.
  • ? I haven’t read From Rationality to Relationality: Ubuntu as an Ethical and Human Rights Framework for Artificial Intelligence Governance by Sabelo Mhlambi yet but it looks fascinating.
  • ?? ??‍⚕️ ? A Brief but Spectacular take on reimagining the doctor’s visit “Studies show that health outcomes are worse for poorer Americans, but pediatrician Lucy Marcil is one doctor who is trying to change that. Marcil integrates free tax and financial services into her clinical care as a way to improve patients’ overall health — and finds that doing so builds better relationships.”
  • ? ? Incredible images of a great variety of sea creatures. Coldwater.Science. “The World Ocean is as close as you can get to outer space without leaving Earth. It’s an entirely different universe, nothing like the life we have on land. And while people dream about alien life forms from other planets, there is another universe right here, closer than anyone expects.” (Via Kristoffer.)
  • ?? Linkin Park T-Shirts Are All the Rage in China. “Copying is a practiced art form in Guangdong’s factories. Many counterfeit products are the result of “third-shift piracy,” in which the manufacturer commissioned by a client claims to be working two shifts in a day, but then tacks on a third to make extra product, without the client knowing. Now this manufacturer can sell its extra product in unregulated marketplaces within China without giving any share of its profits to the original client—all with a patina of legality because the manufacturer is the licensed contractor.” (Via Third Wave Berlin’s Telegram.)
  • ? ‘Ready Player Two’ Sets November Publishing Date. “[P]art of the challenge was penning a story that was truly a book followup, rather than a sequel to the Spielberg film.”
  • ? ??Japan launches new Shinkansen bullet train. “It’s also fitted with lithium-ion battery self-propulsion system — the first of its kind in the world. This system allows the train to run for a short distance on its own during a power outage and will make it possible for it to move to a safer location at low speed if stranded in a high-risk area — on a bridge or in a tunnel, for example — during an earthquake.”
  • ? ?? Incredible city along a canyon in Yanjingzhen, Yunnan Province, China.

Header image: Sebastian Engler Langenzenn, Germany