We are thrilled to announce the launch of our pilot season! Each season of Atlas Urbium will look into one experiment in collective living and consider how it dealt with archetypal problems of community building. The season is an opportunity to engage in thoughtful discussions of the content between collectors, the core team, and invited guests. Along the way, we will release articles that share our insights to the public.
If you want to know more about where Atlas Urbium is headed, read here. If you have no clue at all about Atlas Urbium but you’re curious, maybe start here.
At Atlas Urbium, we are curious about the most radical and uncommon experiments in community building. We are fascinated by republics of medieval dimension that have somehow managed to survive up to the present day, and intrigued by contemporary city-states that have claimed strong forms of sovereignty in the late 20th century. All of these are going into the Atlas.
But we are also concerned with what feels most useful right now. It’s late for nation states–at least in the West–and yet it still feels a bit early for virtually any other experiment in the field of nation building. So we’ve been looking for those cases that feel accessible enough to us that they can inform MVPs. Something that’s not too far out there on the sovereignty spectrum, but where we can see how a distinct collective living experiment has acquired enough leverage to attain a certain level of autonomy.
For us, these are the Shakers, or the United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing. The Shakers were a culturally compact Protestant religious sect that developed a highly coordinated network of settlements across early America in the late 18th century.
Shakerism emerged and developed during a time with many parallels to our own. There were major technological disruptions going on–think the Industrial Revolution. Europe was in the late stages of the intellectual and ideological consolidation of the Age of Reason. It was also the early days of the chain effect of political revolutions, particularly across the Americas. Most eerily similar to our day, whilst some took what was unfolding as a moment of unparalleled opportunity for humanity, others right down the hall saw the end of times on the horizon.
In the backwaters of this muddy ground condition, the Shakers were able to rapidly build up their society and network with dozens of communities across the frontier territories of the American Midwest and New England, where their founder had arrived upon the eve of the American Revolution, looking for an intellectually and politically free environment where she could build out her vision of the world. Hosted by the American experiment, the Shakers lived a life retired from the world. However, they were nonetheless able to gain leverage by amassing significant amounts of wealth and using some of it to provide social goods for their host. This allowed them to obtain political and legal privileges for the socially progressive membership living in the network.
We think the Shakers are a particularly exciting case to talk about for three reasons. The first is that they held a value system that made them technological optimists and rewarded industrial innovation, but also encouraged a sense of frugality that allowed the prosperity generated by this technical progress to be at the service of basic measures of human well-being. The second is their development of sophisticated social and economic coordination tools that allowed Shaker society to truly operate as a compact despite being distributed across a network of villages that spanned state lines. Last but not least, the Shakers’ near 100 years of growth as a network was achieved without resorting to any sort of violence, in observance of a strict pacifist dogma during a moment of deep historical turmoil.
For all their peculiarities, which we will elaborate on throughout the season, we’ve found that thinking and talking about the Shakers today is an incredibly productive endeavor. They were odd people, but their utopian model and the lessons within it remain accessible to our sensibility. We hope you’ll join us as we explore how this celibate, pacifist sect–a group that practiced radical equality of the sexes in the late 1700s–can inspire the way we structure ideologically ambitious experiments in collective living today.
Each season launch will offer people interested in joining the Atlas Urbium Forum, or simply supporting the research initiative, the opportunity to do so by collecting a limited edition NFT with clearly outlined access privileges attached to it. Funding gathered through these sales will support research for future case seasons.
However, Season 001 will be opened exclusively to Collectors of the Genesis Paper NFT that have supported the early research and development of the project, and who will correspondingly retain lifetime access to Atlas Urbium seasons. Although The Shakers NFT (1/1) was sold privately through Collector channels, as of the time of writing there are still some Genesis Paper NFTs available for those who wish to be early supporters of the project and join this upcoming season. We are looking for thoughtful collectors who can make Atlas Urbium a forum for the most intellectually stimulating conversations about building value-aligned IRL communities.
Collectors will be able to access pre-releases of the articles in the season via the Atlas Urbium Notion, and be invited to Collector discussions on the Forum where we will be joined by guests from the community building space to kick off the conversation. We will give a quick recap of the article for those that didn’t have time to read it, discuss the intersections between our guest’s experience and the thoughts in the article, and open the conversation to the community. Collectors will also be credited in articles that were produced thanks to their support. For more details on the season, take a look at the season schedule below.
If you've already collected the Genesis Paper NFT but have not joined the Atlas Urbium Discord server, do so now! That way you can receive collector announcements and join the Forum discussions. You will be able to verify the NFT in your wallet with our Collab.Land bot, and receive the Early Collector role that will give you access to the right channels whilst you hodl the NFT.
001 The Shakers | Skipping Ahead of the Apocalypse: Founder Story, Pitch and Recruitment Strategy
001 The Shakers | Scaling Paradise: From a Node to a Network
001 The Shakers | A Regulated Lifestyle: Ownership and Coordination Protocols
001 The Shakers | Debt Freedom: Funding and Revenue Model
001 The Shakers | Together but Apart: Relations With the World
001 The Shakers | An Ascetic Aesthetic: Cultural Consolidation and Decline
If you have any questions about the season or Atlas Urbium more generally, DM us on Twitter or join the conversation on Discord!