Warrens & Plazas

A warren is a social environment where no participant can see beyond their little corner of a larger maze. Warrens emerge through people personalizing and customizing their individual environments with some degree of emergent collaboration. A plaza is an environment where you can easily get to a global/big picture view of the whole thing. Plazas are created by central planners who believe they know what’s best for everyone. The terms are very evocative, and should remind you of the idea of legibility in physical environments that we talked about recently, in my post A Big Little Idea Called Legibility. In fact, it wouldn’t be a gross oversimplification to say that warrens and plazas differ primarily in their legibility. There are many subtleties of course…”social systems that thrive and grow are on the edge of legibility. …All kinds of legibility: status legibility, environmental legibility and probably a couple of other kinds. If they become too legible, they fail in the Seeing Like a State mode or through evaporative cooling.  If they become too illegible, they fail by ossifying, with highly ritualized and sacramental cultures, with a great deal of environmental irrationality and very few entries/exits.”

-Venkatesh Rao, “Warrens, Plazas and the Edge of Legibility.” Ribbonfarm.com. October 27, 2010.