Pluralistic: 18 Oct 2021

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Against the great forces of history

What Ada Palmer’s University of Chicago Papal election LARP can teach us about our own future.

“Cesare Borgia oath of Fealty,” from the 2019 Papal election LARP. Photo by Ada Palmer. Used with permission.

Ada Palmer is a wonder. Not only is she a tenured University of Chicago historian who specializes in the forbidden information of Florence during the Inquisitions (witchcraft, homosexuality, heresy and other fascinating subjects); she’s also a composer, librettist and performer whose album-length retelling of Norse mythos is, astoundingly, exceeded by her song about space travel (if this doesn’t make you well up, I don’t want to know you).

And to top it all off, she’s a brilliant science fiction writer, whose inaugural series, Terra Ignota, has just concluded with its fourth and final volume, Perhaps the Stars.

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Pluralistic: 16 Oct 2021

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Pluralistic: 15 Oct 2021

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Pluralistic: 13 Oct 2021

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Pluralistic: 12 Oct 2021

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Pluralistic: 11 Oct 2021

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Dead letters

Email could be the last federated internet technology — but it isn’t.

Vintage engraving of a dead letter office where postal officials struggle to decipher addressing information; captioned “Who is it for? A scene in the dead letter office experts trying to decipher an illegible address”

It feels like only yesterday that we were living through the Substack bubble, as mailing lists enjoyed a new renaissance (rebranded as “newsletters”), a tangible expression of the techlash and our collective disgust with the platforms and their attempts to enclose the internet and convert it to “five giant websites, each filled with screenshots of text from the other four.

In the abstract, mailing lists/newsletters represent the promise of a return to a Jeffersonian internet, where each of us can garden own little patch, not subject to the whims of third parties. That, after all, is the original design brief of the internet, to be an “end-to-end network” where any party can connect to any other party without needing permission from anyone else.

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Pluralistic: 08 Oct 2021

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Pluralistic: 07 Oct 2021

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