Capital flows to the most legible ideas

August 1, 2023
Luxury Media

In his essay “Individuals Matter,” Dan Luu makes a tangential argument that “projects which are more legible get more funding across organizations as well as within them.” Because they are better understood by a larger number of stakeholders, and the ROI more quantifiable, legible projects receive more capital, especially in complex organizations.

This observation has stuck with me for some time. At face value, the observation is very intuitive and is a large reason that effective communication and “politics” play such a huge role in getting things done in large companies. But I’ve also come to believe that Dan’s argument is a core reason for my interest in media.

A couple of months ago, I wrote that the role of community as internet-native media is the contextualization of content for its use in cultural production:

Communities exist as filters for information and as mediums of collective production. Community formation takes content as input (curation as a form of sensemaking) and outputs more content in the form of cultural production (creation as a form of cultural practice). People become the platform, and the focus of media shifts to what we do with the information at our disposal.

Community is the lens through which we contextualize content. One of the core properties of community is their taste: what is the fundamental point-of-view that is attracting these people to one another? Why are these people choosing to work together? What do they want to see more of in the world?

In other words, the core function of internet-native media is creating legibility, and a community serves that role through exercising its taste.

What does it mean to create legibility? Zach Tellman argues that there are two concepts of legibility: singular and faceted.

Singular legibility is the type described in Seeing Like a State. It is top-down, overriding our own experiences in the way that governments replaced locally optimal modes of living for globally optimal ones that were easier to control. For James C. Scott, the book’s author, creating legibility is something done to people, never for them.

Faceted legibility more forgiving, as described in the book Image of the City. It complements our own experience and acts as a map – or lens – through which we simplify and understand our environment. Faceted legibility is not something we can simply create on our own, but rather requires collaboration and iteration that manifests from community.

Back to capital.

If capital flows to the most legible ideas, then the communities that are able to best exercise their taste are the communities who will be able to create what they want to see more of in the world.

Community is the vehicle through which we develop and exercise taste – it is internet-native media.

Building a luxury media business is quite literally the practice of directing capital toward the ideas you care about by making them more legible (in the “faceted legibility” sense).

“The medium is the message,” and the message is the money.