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The Inaugural Post
Discussing foundations on the road to release
One cool thing in the age of Substack is that products can write articles about themselves. They can decide to highlight design features and other technical considerations important to the product’s use. They can emphasize aspects about their market and audience they hope to cultivate, and they can explore important concepts for which the discussion space is a key catalyst for the product itself.
We can start by the describing the Pluribus product itself in different ways.
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A decentralized, crowdfunded insurance protocol for content creators.
A novel approach to culture production that allows creators to monetize a higher fraction of their audience.
A networked structure that allows individuals cultivating a heterodox taste to offload the punitive costs of a censorial institutional landscape.
Many platforms may also aim to be part or all of these things, too. Thus, it’s important to dig deeper into some values and orientations1 that are driving the development Pluribus in particular.
Are you ready for some Serious Internet Philosophizing™? We don’t guarantee it, but you may find you have become a culture warrior by the end of today’s reading.
Pluribus encourages the formation of a “positive” orientation – and, no, this does not just mean developing a good attitude.
When discussing the moral good of liberty, many will often distinguish between “positive liberty” and “negative liberty”. Positive liberty is the freedom to actualize on potential. Negative liberty is essentially the principle of non-coercion.
Pluribus obviously values non-coercion; it would be silly to develop a product that opposes cancellation and somehow expects users to buy into coercive elements. But being generally non-coercive is not enough to be an agent of cultural change. That is to say, though Pluribus opposes “cancel culture”, a purely oppositional ethic will never be effective in fostering the development of a different type of culture.
Negative space is useful to the extent that it produces the liminality and contrast necessary to adapt to a shifting landscape and develop an intelligent, positive response to the conditions around you. But, in the end, it’s imperative to develop that positive response and effectuate it!
Which means Pluribus is not in the business of attracting a class of commentariat who bemoans the destructive nature of cancellation. We are interested in surfacing creators that will fill the world with their visions of beauty and goodness, while guaranteeing they don’t have to bear prohibitive costs for failing to articulate fashionable (and usually false) political truths.
To that end, the ideal type of content creator that uses this platform is not someone who just releases content to consume. Rather, they are a culture creator – somebody who is deeply in touch with their own sense of taste and wills it into the world for others to enjoy.
Cultivating taste is difficult, and most people are bad at it until they practice enough to get good at it. Furthermore, the only type of person who can successfully turn the tide on a culture that stifles genuine expression, is the person who is accordingly committed to practicing their taste to this extent.
To the degree that Pluribus is values-neutral, we are broadly not interested in directly influencing you to adopt a particular form or execution of taste. However, we are interested in nurturing a positive vision that you can present to your audience, and leverage their participation into realizing that vision.
A fundamental part of leveraging your audience is investing in localized relationships with them. This means more than just giving supporters treats to chew on; for any creative endeavor, it’s trivial that you do this to make it successful. To localize, you must go further by giving primacy to an active, evolving relationship between you and your followers.
Predilection toward the local implies that that what drives you is not global trends nor impositions of meaning-making from a priesthood of interpreters. This is not a wholesale rejection of “top-down” directives, but an understanding that cultural signals sought from the outside, when brought back down, must be re-contextualized within the spaces and relationships that matter most to you.
In fact, this is what taking ownership of a living process means. The word ownership – and more generally the concept of possession – has been given a negative connotation in a society that equates any higher restraint placed upon an individual with with self-repression. Pluribus rejects this simplistic analysis.
Cultivating taste means taking possession: designating the constraints through which you wish to express your style, giving definition to the channels through which you expect your supporters to participate, and entering into a co-creative exchange with your supporters to mediate these boundaries.
Another way to describe the responsibility of localized ownership as a culture creator is as the curator of a local cultural ecology. Natural ecologies don’t define static classes of producers and consumers. Entities that consume resources from productive generation also produce externalities for others to consume. The entire system is governed by tight feedback loops.
Similarly, when you share memes with your followers, they (1) metabolize your semiotics according their models of taste, and then (2) circle back around to provide you with semiotics to modulate your taste. Your job at the helm of this creative cycle is to identify the vision you hope to realize and conduct your supporters to refine and reify that vision; you become the conduit through which the highest of your cultural motives is expressed.
Ecosystems, both cultural and physical, are dynamic and ever-evolving. They rarely operate according to linear, step-wise progress. Wise cultural operators know that the nature of preference cascades is exponential, and as such, take responsibility to influence their cultural landscape by saturating it with the beauty and goodness others ought to embody. The wisest cultural operators sublimate: they skillfully apply temperature and pressure so as to cause dramatic phase changes in the cultural codes that their followers adopt.
Pluribus insists that this type of positively-oriented, tasteful, localized, non-linear cultural phase change is what is needed to combat the plague of “cancellation”. Can you feel your bones awakening, preparing you to become a general in the Final Culture War™?
This is a good primer for the aims and ends of Pluribus. We’ll follow up with a more playful and erudite rendition of the artistic space Pluribus intends to explore and occupy.
It should be clear that this post is not meant to represent an exhaustive list. There are O(100) different phrases or words that we could have used to describe motivating values and orientations. Some that did not make the cut, but are indispensable: Coherence, Integrity, Holism.