This piece came out of one of our “Are.na Walkthroughs” in which we ask people to take us through a particular channel, the blocks and ideas held within, and the ways those ideas may have evolved as the channel has grown and accumulated. Our third one was on June 25th over Zoom, and it featured Ephraim Johnson, Casey Tang, Sienna Kwami, and Tiger Dingsun. Here, Tiger shares some of what he talked about while walking us through his channel “worlding.”
I first created this channel while I was in design school. At first, I was specifically trying to find examples of graphic design that felt like worldbuilding to me, but it has since expanded to include images that just feel taxonomic and expandable. By that I mean, I love seeing lists, collections, diagrams, and configurations of discrete items that feel like they imply a vast, continuous world that those items inhabit. I took the term ‘worlding’ from the artist Ian Cheng; he describes it really beautifully here.
Worlding is a type of poetics to me, in the sense that I feel like poetry is also about trying to balance chaos, order, and some sort of third, transformative, spiritual force. I think the reason that this channel started off specifically in the context of graphic design is because in school it was obvious that design was about balancing order and chaos (see: adages like making and breaking the grid, learning the rules so you can break them, etc). But I was hungry for that third thing, that spirituality, for lack of a better term, that makes something feel like worlding.
This is page from Dictee by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, which is an old favorite. The book introduces itself as being structured around the nine Greek muses. Other systems like these Taoist concepts emerge, and when I read it for the first time, it felt like the poet’s own world was emerging out of the coincidences and incongruences that arose from overlaying and applying different models and taxonomies. Worlds created from logics hand-picked from other worlds.
P.S. also, the last page of the book is probably my favorite poem.
This is a screenshot from this Wikipedia article in which the list of examples read like poems. I think what drew me to this was the idea that ‘things suspended in other things’ could be a really rich metaphor/spatial-configuration to think through things. Also, words like ‘foam,’ ‘gel,’ ‘milk,’ and ‘fog’ are so tangible and palpable and yummy when read in close proximity. Also diagrams and charts always feel like ‘worlding’ to me, especially when they’re hyperspecific; they’re like new lenses (tools?) to filter reality through.
At some point it occurred to me that developing your own bespoke magic system would also be a really good exercise when it comes to design, because you’re creating this whole system from scratch that has to interact with other systems of the world it inhabits, like politics, culture, society, etc. This worksheet, which I guess is for fiction writers, is the most in-depth framework for building this kind of magic system that I've found, and is also just a really interesting list of questions in general.
Another amazing list. This is a screenshot from this little old physics simulator game called Powder Game. I feel like 'lists as a structure' usually indicates that every item that's being listed is on the same level of importance, so to me they always seem to describe the fundamental constituent elements that form the basis of some implied world. This list is much more obviously that. I love the thought of a world where ‘laser’ occupies the same elemental-ness as ‘bird.’
Honestly, just amazing phraseology. Definitely makes my mind spin to imagine the world that these objects might inhabit.