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Interintellect @ Vibecamp: Materializing the New Republic of Letters

March 5, 2022 at 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm CST

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If you’re attending Vibecamp, join Étienne Fortier-Dubois and Alex Grin at this special Interintellect gathering to discuss the beauty and perils of manifesting online communities “in real life.”

In the age of Enlightenment, the Republic of Letters was a group of intellectuals who lived across Europe and kept in touch through written correspondence. It was a rare instance of a community that formed irrespective of geography, at a time when the low bandwidth of long-distance communication made it difficult to work. 

Today the situation is somewhat reversed. Online communities thrive with no regard for physical proximity, while it is common to not know the names of our neighbors. People sort themselves according to their interests in places like the Interintellect or through the emergent dynamics of Twitter. We are building countless Republics of Letters, all across the web.

But this comes at the cost of everything that physicality brings: human touch, spontaneity, high bandwidth interactions, serendipity. As a result, there is much talk of materializing communities somehow. Some would like to build villages for their friends and themselves. Some consider moving to cities that serve as a nexus for their group. Some organize Vibecamp.

This comes with challenges and risks. In a community where pseudonymity is common, meeting in real life is like taking a blindfold off. It can be scary: you’ll be seen for who you really are. And then there are various risks around changing dynamics, the possible presence of problematic people, etc. So we can ask: should online communities strive for materializing physically, or should it remain a rare, exceptional effort?

On the other hand, what are the gains to be made? Can physicality strengthen the bonds that exist across global communities, making them even more able to create good? Is there a tradeoff between the benefits of proximity and those of global interconnectedness?

The Republic of Letters was eventually outcompeted by institutions that developed when intellectuals came together. But those institutions have aged, not always well. Can something like Vibecamp—and new villages, and new city nexuses, and so on—replace them in some way? That’s what we’ll attempt to answer.

This special Interintellect event is available to everyone attending Vibecamp. Feel free to join the discussion at any point for the duration of the event.

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March 5, 2022
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm CST
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Austin, Texas
TX United States + Google Map