September 3, 2022

Worldbuilding by Association

Everybody is worldbuilding. There is a vision of the world that you want to come to fruition, and you are working to make that a reality.

The scope of that worldbuilding is what varies. Everybody’s vision of their ideal world involves their own personal situation: their family, their home, their job. Some people’s vision of the world is a bit wider in scope, encompassing the state of their towns, countries, and even global affairs (for example, many folks are worldbuilding to combat climate change).

Generally, the smaller the scope of your worldbuilding, the more egocentric it becomes. Focusing only on your job and social status is highly individualistic: how can I shape the world to be better for myself?

On the other hand, the bigger and more ambitious your worldbuilding affairs, the more altruistic they tend to be.

It’s interesting to me that most discussion around the value of community is viewed through the limited, egocentric lens. I’ll often hear that community is valuable because “people want to belong to something greater.”

But to what ends?

The idea of belonging has a communal connotation. When we think of belonging, we think of our association with other people, and the positive feeling that comes with those relationships. But belonging as an ends is inherently egocentric – the focus is on how you feel as part of the community.

Being a part of a community – or many communities – is an opportunity to expand the scope of your worldbuilding. Belonging must be a means to an end, never the end itself.

In this way, joining and contributing to communities is worldbuilding by association. We are greater than the sum of our parts, and giving ourselves to the collective forces us to expand the scope of our worldbuilding.

We are able to leverage relationships toward bigger, more common visions of the future, rather than limiting our ambitions to the self.

This ramble is inspired by some thoughts I’ve had about the way we’re shaping these “community-driven organizations” we’re all supposedly building. When we get down to the meat of it, all community-driven really means is that we’re allowing the humanity of the folks involved in the organization to show through in the organization’s output.

In other words, we are moving beyond a standard of liberal neutrality: community-driven organizations are not neutral, nor should they be. They force us to cultivate and embrace our values and make them known to the world.

Our association with these organizations, then, is an opportunity to tangibly express those values – to worldbuild. Unlike a traditional corporation where profit trumps all and values are considered only on balance, community-driven organizations are values first: what do you believe, and how will we build that future?

Simply being a part of DAOs, tokenized communites, etc. is an act of worldbuilding, because the responsibility of governance being delegated to members means that belonging can no longer be an egocentric act – it is inherently communal.

We’re worldbuilding by association. And that makes belonging a very powerful tool.