We’ve been hard at work over the last couple of weeks figuring out how to make the months of research we’ve undertaken on the Atlas Urbium pilot case most useful to our Collectors and the larger community-building space. Our Case 001 Dry Run with Early Collectors a couple of weeks back revealed the potential that the research has to catalyze relevant conversations, but also the need to further structure their format. Wikipedia pages or brief opinion pieces on some of these cases are a great starting point for those of us that are curious about some of these cases. But there’s hunger for slower, long-form content that is presented in a digestible way. And for it to come with a community eager to have earnest, creative discussions around the pieces.
After hefty rounds of discussion amongst the core team, with early collectors and project advisors, we’ve found that now more than ever we need to be scavenging for inventive answers to the archetypical problems that present themselves to any group of people that decide to embark on a collective living experiment. How we build and govern a community that contributes to a protocol is complicated enough. But add to this all the layers that come with the ambition to coexist in an environment that manifests a unique vision of the good life, and we are talking about a very, very hard problem.
Atlas Urbium was conceived as a collection of case studies because those of us that come from this world of architecture understand that looking at references can be incredibly useful when taking on complex challenges that have more variables than we can make sense of; that are based on cultural and social constraints that are hard to isolate from one another in the design process. When writing code, our design and technical questions can often be answered by perusing a forum such as Stack Overflow or a visit to a style guide. When it comes to orchestrating human life in space though, these types of repositories tend to fall short of our necessities, and the rich tradition of case studies steps in.
The consequences of what we do when we bring people together in space–good or bad–are usually pretty long lasting. So when we design, we look back at how others have solved similar kinds of problems in a holistic way, despite difference between their contexts and ours. What we manage to interpret, and feels useful, we take. And much of what we can’t make out, that intelligence that is embedded within the structure of a reference despite its lack of intelligibility to us, tends to come along for the ride as well.
The latter is of course a double-edged sword. Referring to something always brings the risk of unintentionally absorbing a part of its nature that is contrary to our aims. And it’s one of the reasons why we think Atlas Urbium should be focused on expanding a catalog of community-building case studies, and also facilitating in depth conversations around them.
We believe that difference and variety of choice contribute to the richness of life and social interaction. One of the great promises of this moment of proliferation of organized communities is its potential to create a plethora of distinct visions and ways of living for the future. But if core contributors of projects are too focused on looking at what competitors or comparable projects have done in the recent past, we probably won't find solutions that are too distant from the status quo. Projects will tend toward homogeneity. We might end up with a situation where despite slightly different narrative takes or governance models, the deep structure of all these organizations are not that different, be it because they all rushed into the same funding model, or kept on referring to the same three historical examples that they had at hand and felt productive. This is a problem that comes naturally to any resource-constrained endeavor, particularly startups, but it’s one that we think we can make a contribution to.
For us, avoiding these common points of failures depends on a combination of creative and strategic thinking. We see Atlas Urbium as a forum for this. As a place to discuss the dozens of models through which people across time have tried to answer archetypical problems of community building: crafting narratives, establishing truth, constructing governance models, developing a community’s sense of social cohesion, building small economies, creating leverage to negotiate with outsiders, and so on. Not to emulate them, but rather give fuel to our creativity, and reinforce the narrative that this space will yield truly diverse alternatives to the fundamentally human question, how should we live together?
So what does this all mean for Atlas Urbium moving forward?
Working on the pilot case, we’ve figured out that there’s much more to say and discuss about any of these cases than a single article can cover. In the spirit of making Atlas Urbium both a catalog and a veritable forum, we are turning the cases into short seasons.
Next Tuesday, March 22nd, we will be launching our pilot season, and announcing Case 001.
Each season will launch with an introductory article that outlines the context for the case we will be exploring, why we think it matters, and a calendar with the topics of the subsequent six articles in the season. Each article which is then released weekly will look at the season’s case from the perspective of an archetypical community-building problem that it lends itself to. Over time, we will build a veritable collection of answers to some of the most relevant problems that any founder or community comes across in this space. Think this, this or this, but for startup organizations looking to manifest their vision in the form of IRL communities.
Every week, Collectors that support the project will get access to the forthcoming article in the current season through the Atlas Urbium Notion. They will also be invited to a discussion session on the Collectors’ channels of the Atlas Urbium Discord server before its publication. At these discussions, one of us will begin by giving a 5 minute summary for those that did not have a chance to read the full piece. We will then open the conversation with a guest that will be invited to reflect on the article in relation to a project he or she is currently working on in the space. The articles and other asynchronous content then will be food for thought, catalyzing synchronous moments of conversations amidst Collectors and guests where together we can think about where we stand today.
Apart from early access to articles and access to private discussions with industry guests on the forum, Collectors will be credited directly on the articles produced with their support. Each season will be released with an accompanying NFT edition that will support further case research and grant Collectors privileges related to the season.
Only Collectors of the Genesis Paper NFT will get lifetime access to Atlas Urbium seasons in recognition of their early support of the project. There will only be 100 of these lifetime roles, so collect one now!
We’re really looking forward to our pilot season launch next week, and hope you’ll join us for the ride!