Notes on worlding

See Ian Cheng’s work on Worlding

Both physical book: Emissaries Guide to Worlding

And digital book: Emissary’s Guide to Worlding

As well as his Worlding Raga blogchain with Venkat Rao at Ribbonfarm!


Here’s a very cool example from the Long Now Foundation: Long-Lived Institutions

All about trying to figure out how to make an organization that endures…some nice comparisons with systems in nature/ecology, language and culture, government, etc.


What’s the relationship / difference between:

  • Memorable
  • Impactful
  • Immersive
  • Generative
  • ???

Thinking about e.g. Sleep No More or Meow Wolf as being immersive and rich in the moment, the context of experiencing it…but not really a lasting thing where I keep thinking / feeling things about the world long afterwards. Contrast with e.g. great novels where it’s not a tangible thing but can leave a much more lasting impression and probably longer legacy (hundreds of years or more, potentially!)

So perhaps a World can be impactful but not particularly memorable? Immersive but not particularly generative?

What are actually the best examples of Worlds as I’d like to see them?!


From Andrew Liptak’s newsletter “Wordplay Reading List: Dune’s growing cinematic universe and Chernobyl / Roadside Picnic”

Cool section about upcoming Dune movies + tv show; possible whole cinematic universe…

There have been a number of Dune adaptations over the years, and the novel has had a certain staying power, with mythology around the adaptations to e.g. with “Jodorowsky’s Dune”

Not at Star Wars / Marvel levels by any stretch, but it has potential, it seems!

And an interesting point is that Brian Herbert (son of author Frank Herbert) is playing an active role; he’s written many sequels / prequels continuing the book series, and is taking a producer role in the television production…

I spoke with them in 2016, and they talked about how they wanted to keep the series alive, and that essentially meant keeping people interested and engaged by continuing to produce new stories in the world. I’ve noted in the past that other major authors, like Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, and Isaac Asimov, while extremely popular and influential in their lifetimes, really haven’t enjoyed the same longevity, because nobody’s been at the helm, continuing their works.

Interesting challenge to sort of revive interest in the work and the whole world created around it (which is really fascinating but hasn’t fully been fleshed out yet w/ fandom etc. to my knowledge).

The pair had a lot to work with: Herbert had left behind plenty of notes and a rich world, and they ended up publishing numerous novels that adhered to the spirit of his intentions, eventually publishing what he had planned as a seventh installment of the series.

There are of course many fans, but lots of “Worlding” process left to go!


From Robin Sloan’s newsletter “Week 26, set a course for the aesthetics of my youth”

I am always thinking, on some level, about archives and libraries, and it’s striking how many of the most interesting, vital pieces of our media environment today are “living organisms” that, denied their networks of sustenance, will cease to function and/or become illegible.

Examples range from something like Fortnite, the massive video game that is always shifting, always evolving – there’s no static “thing” you can point at – to the movie called Bandersnatch, Netflix’s quasi-interactive presentation that is available (of course) only from Netflix’s servers. There’s no open standard for quasi-interactive movies (yet?); if Netflix goes down, Bandersnatch goes with it, forever. (By all reports, this would not be a huge loss, but what about the next one – the quasi-interactive movie that really IS a work of art?)

To be clear, I’m very glad Fortnite and Bandersnatch exist! The point here isn’t “make stable, static books and movies, please.” The point is, we – the players and viewers of these things, and also, honestly, the people who produce them – ought to be thinking about how they might make it into an archive some day.

The archivists, for their part, are already out there thinking hard. They could use a little more support.

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