reimagining community infrastructure | thinkthinkthink #23
web3 might redesign the governance infrastructure of cities and communities
This issue on communities is 467 words long and it takes ~2 minutes to read. It is written as part of a 7-day writing challenge with The Tech Progressive. Join the build_ Discord to join the discussion.
Twenty years ago I’d spin up my screeching 56 Kbit/s modem, open mIRC and connect to local servers with chatrooms upon chatrooms filled trivia, small-scale file-sharing, and deep conversations with internet acquaintances. I even met a couple of geeks for pizza in Tirana at the time; 15 to 20 year old’s dreaming about the digital frontier from the remnants of the iron curtain. It was the first time I felt like I belonged to a community of strangers with whom I shared some values, and could have complex conversations on fascinating topics.
Fifteen years ago I’d fire up World of Warcraft hop on my flying mount and, chat away with my fellow hardcore raiding guilders on TeamSpeak. It felt nothing like mIRC communities, but there was something there - something that was often more powerful and created stronger bonds than the mushrooming social media networks.
I had not felt a similar attraction to online communities until 2021. In the beginning there was a sudden clubhouse uptick back in February. Random and ephemeral voice chatrooms popped-up where one could have extremely interesting conversations on - for example - the technicalities of building cities on Mars. Most people I know have moved their clubhouse game to Twitter’s clone, spaces - but the concept remains the same. Have a long conversation about a well-defined topic with scores of people chiming in. These communities, especially when still running under the radar, have a very high signal-to-noise ratio.
Some months later I discovered what might be the software infrastructure that will run the cities of tomorrow: the proliferation of web3 communities on Discord. While a lot of the current activity is concentrated on decentralized-finance and constitution purveyors - there’s a couple of growing digital islands that are re-imagining the urban dimension: build_, Praxis, cityDAO, 1729ers are only some of the highly active groups sharing amazing content, building social infrastructure, but most importantly creating highly specialized networks merging the gap between varied technical expertise and focused urban domain knowledge.
Most importantly I feel like for the first time the conversation on building and planning cities has expanded beyond urbanists and domain experts. In an interesting turn of events, I have yet to meet an architect or urban planner in my forays into this space. I’m sure there’s many fellow planners out there, but these communities certainly have zero resemblance to the professional homogeneity of ISOCARP meetings.
The cities of tomorrow are being built by passionate individuals, whom are connecting and critically thinking - from first principles - about the urban fabric they want to live in. It’s public consultation in reverse - where the public is building cities, and the professionals might sometimes be asked for an opinion. Join these strange rationally discordant communities - you might mingle with the Mayors of tomorrow.
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📚 One Book
Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds & Shape Our Futures by Merlin Sheldrake
Life is like jazz improv. Nothing depicts this better than the ancient realm of fungi. Sheldrake sends you on a special trip through the world of fungi, lichens and mycelium. There's a bit of everything: truffles, wine, bread, psilocybin and the wood wide web. Akin to a live orchestration of decomposition and life, fungi are exquisitely elegant complex systems with a lot of ancient lessons to teach. Mycelium - the enmeshed underground terranet that binds life together - is especially interesting in the context of thinking about cities. Extremely interesting and inspiring book.
📝 Three Links
The Deeper Order of Cities by me
On distributed and cooperative urban planning enabled by combining complexity science, Christopher Alexander's pattern language and blockchain technology.
Discord: Imagine a Place by Packy McCormick
A foray into the internet’s new home.
Let’s run the experiment by Steven Johnson
A conversation about DAOs and the future of organizations online.
🐤 Five Tweets
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This was the twenty-third issue of thinkthinkthink - a periodic newsletter by Joni Baboci on cities, science and complexity. If you liked it why not subscribe?
Thanks for reading; don't hesitate to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or @dbaboci. Have a question or want to add something to the discussion?
City Planner here! I agree that those discords are so energizing and full of ideas. Loved hearing your thoughts on the CityDAO podcast too. Cities + blockchain + governance feels like it has so much potential - and potential for good.