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Undefined Neighbourhoods and the Power of Naming Things
Also: Rent Collusion, Taylor Swift, and Latent Cultural Potential
As you can see, in some cases it’s clearer and in other instances, it’s not. The article itself also goes some of the strange borders and history. I’ve had a life-long fascination with thresholds: when we change the definition of something along a scale. Questions like: when does a hill become a mountain, or when does a sea become an ocean? Where does a neighbourhood end and another begin?
I feel that inside that conundrum of how we define and name things lies some truth and understanding that I can’t quite place yet. It’s only a feeling that something interesting lies in that direction. Understanding the space in-between is where the magic lies. The answer, perhaps is in the attempt?
This week, tangentially,tackled the concept of “vastness” (the effable but unnameable).
…effable but increasingly unnameable. It’s like the intellectual ultraviolet. We can feel parts of it as a sort of cancerous burning (the sense of vastness turning your brain into ooze), but we cannot conceptualize it in any general way. Its most salient aspect is its unassailable, information-dense specificity.
The vastness is unnameable, untheorizable, and incompressible, but it’s not unexperienceable or even hard to find and experience. It’s all around you, in everything you normally tune out as unimportant details.
In the post, was a link to an article about the power of naming things through the vision of the fairy-tale Rumpelstiltskin and the Tao Te Ching. Why is naming something such a powerful tool against vanquishing the imp?
The act of naming is one of the central mysteries of human cognition — it is the visible tip of an iceberg whose depth below the surface of conscious thought we have only just begun to plumb.
Maybe the story of Rumpelstiltskin, in its cryptic way, is trying to tell us two intertwined tales. On the one hand it is telling us that unnamed powers lurk in the shadows: capricious spirits that can both help and harm us. Like stories themselves, these powers may be infinite. Perhaps our rational concepts can never fully account for them. But on the other hand, it seems to be telling us that when malevolent or irrational forces manifest themselves, we can — if we're lucky — name them and tame them.
A neighbourhood is a continuous conversation. Somewhere, there’s a threshold where a neighbourhood acquires a name that in time, makes it possible to “name and tame” this conversation. We don’t have neighbourhoods defined by a single block, and big cities aren’t defined as one big neighbourhood either. Somewhere in the middle, after many of these conversations among the community, we get to neighbourhoods.
My guess on where thresholds often lie, especially if they engage with socio-cultural contexts (like naming a neighbourhood or a genre compared to the scientific definition of a mountain), is where it’s useful for the group involved to say something with less. People won’t adopt ever increasing smaller names for smaller neighbourhoods if the extra effort to do so doesn’t communicate what they want to communicate. Often times, this is fractal, as the distance to the thing that is named defines its granularity. For example, to someone within the city, you live in a neighbourhood, but outside of it, it’s merely the city. To a New Yorker, I used to live in Williamsburg. To an American, I perhaps lived in Brooklyn. To a South African, I lived in New York City. Or, in other contexts: I work in music. I make dance music. I make trance music. I make psy-trance music. I make dark psy-trance.
In genres or industries, there’s also always a fight over naming things. Sometimes, it’s even worse: a name that defines a name for a trend without a canonical definition. A scissor label.
I think the Rumpelstiltskin article misses one point. I think the power of merely naming something isn’t where the true power lies. For as the New York Times article says:
Then again, just because everyone else agrees on what to call a place, that doesn’t mean you have to. Your personal borders will never be wrong. Remember: There is no official “right.”
…but, ultimately, that:
A name has power. It can foreshadow who will be moving in. By itself, it can conjure so much: gentrification, displacement, inequality, status. When we argue over names, or even invent new ones, we may be trying to exert some of that power — or lamenting that others have more power than we do.
The naming of neighbourhoods, identities, genres, and other thresholds is a conversation that reveals structures of power. That, to me feels “vast”. A graph that you can feel in things like the make-up of neighourhood names, but could never fully truly encompass.
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Speaking of urbanism and zoning. Enjoyed this deep dive from City Beautiful on the various rules involved with how zoning codes can change the outcomes of the shape of a neighbourhood.
DC RealPage Lawsuit
Back in early February, I shared an article about why NYC rents have gone up so much. It involved landlords indirectly colluding through RealPage: software that collects private pricing information and recommends rents to landlords.
Some argue — including the plaintiffs of over a dozen class-action lawsuits filed in the wake of ProPublica’s story — that RealPage’s software allows individual landlords to keep their hands clean while indirectly colluding to inflate prices.
This week, DC actually filed suit against large landlords in DC for using it to indirectly collude. It’s going to be an interesting case to follow. In the absence of anti-trust law, what else would be a “check” on this kind of responsibility outsourcing? It’s also a reminder that markets work better if we protect them from abuse. It also asks questions of what decision-making responsibility we’ve deferred to algorithms that could be a net drag on society? In this case, it’s a bit clearer that there has potentially been colluding conduct to increase rents under the guise of easing decision-making. But are there unintentional outcomes like this too? Can we keep this recommendation engine for easing decision-making but also make it fairer? Open algorithms? A lot of questions to ask.
Taylor Swift vs Record Labels
It’s funny that record labels, sometimes known for being greedy and anti-musician would totally decide to be more fairer to musicians and totally not make it worse, right? Record labels now want to extend the timeline that restricts musicians from re-recording their songs.
For decades, standard major-label recording contracts stated artists had to wait for the latter of two periods to expire before they could put out re-recorded versions, Swift-style: It could have been five to seven years from the release date of the original, or two years after the contract expired. Today, attorneys are receiving label contracts that expand that period to 10 or 15 years or more — and the attorneys are pushing back. “It becomes one of a multitude of items you’re fighting,” Karp says.
Speak of Taylor Swift. Her Eras Tour has apparently grossed $4B+ and she is officially (apparently) a billionaire from music alone. Pretty incredible feat.
With the release of the concert film doing well ($200m+), it somewhat vindicates my belief that cinemas should play things other than just movies in them. Definitely in awe of what she has managed to accomplish.
Latent Cultural Potential
A few weeks I wrote about how “NFTs Can’t Die”. One of my favourite artists in this space is Takens Theorem: someone truly using the medium for art and expression. They wrote a new post on EtherScan detailing onchain NFTs and dynamism. The discussion had been flowing again this week on Twitter because Elon Musk on Joe Rogan spoke about how NFTs are tokens with links to servers. However, a growing and burgeoning onchain NFT scene has been ongoing for quite some years.
I appreciate they mentioned my project “Witness The Draft” which I started creating a year ago as I did nanowrimo.
Are you doing nanowrimo this year? I’m not, although, I am writing a new novel, just not as part of nanowrimo. Any cool dynamic onchain NFTs you seen?
Wisdom of a Council
It’s been interesting to watch DAO structures evolve and iterate over the past few years. One thing I was hoping to see is to have more parallel and additional governance mechanism interface with purer token-only structures. One such example is Optimism’s Token House and Citzens’ House.
FWB, for example, added an additional governing structure called the Community Council.
What’s your most interesting governance structure currently being experiment with in web3?
Any other interesting old geographic stories in the world?
Weekly Zora Mint
I’ve been watching Scavenger’s Reign this week. A magical exploration of alien life and this art piece immediately reminded me of the series. It’s animated, so click through! L2 Diving by bystani.eth.
Minting this piece also earns referral fees for this newsletter.
Hania Rani - Hello (Live)
I’ve been on a Hania Rani kick again this week. Such a wonderful mix piano ambience and ethereal dance grooves to get lost into. Her music videos is always so magical. Some of the most magical experiences I’ve had included losing myself in beautiful scenery and this is some of her music videos.
That’s it for this week, folks. Enjoy a beautiful sunset!