Cult Deconstruction Framework

Mondays - micro cult
Target demo: people who think about things
What: secret experimental small scale discussion group
Pitch: think and talk about things you can't anywhere else
Why it works: truly inventive (or, Toby force of personality)

Learning Gardens - benevolent cult
Target demo: people who think about things
What: distributed meta organisation of reading and learning groups
Pitch: achieve nirvana
Why it works: addictive dopamine hits when people share your ideas,
continuous cross-pollination

Alt right - cult rebrand
Target demo: younger, cleverer white social conservatives
What: political movement that implicitly prioritized white identity
Pitch: subvert leftists telling you what to do
Why it works: fixates a group enemy, red pills its members to promise "enlightenment"

Apple - full blown religion
Target demo: everyone
What: consumer technology company selling products
Pitch: "because it's Apple" [note tautology]
Why it works: operates like a fashion co, fear of being seen with sub par brands

Silicon valley culture - ideology
Target demo: everyone under 50
What: techno-futurist libertarian worldview
Pitch: unbridled technology will save the world
Why it works: discourse of "world changing" and "problem solving" is compelling, hides problematic aspects

Trumpism - cult of personality
Target demo: everyone besides liberal arts grads
What: ego-driven political movement
Pitch: #MAGA
Why it works: obscures complex realities, offers simple binaries


From Paul Soulellis

When we teach typography the focus is on control. But we learn to master these rules as though they're universal, as though there exists an optimized way to read. Perfect typography means predicting an idealized reading experience. And a very particular power dynamic, involving knowledge manipulation and control.

...mythology of the genius, singular type designer ... as if designers have a monopoly on some sort of sacred knowledge and control that other people do not have.

Who are the unseen powers controlling the read in these environments? Who do they speak for? What kind of idealized audience has been imagined in their design? How do we, as designers, participate in these logics of success?

The Politics of Legibility, James C. Scott

Legibility is a condition of manipulation. Any substantial state intervention in society...requires the intervention of units that are visible. The units in question might be citizens, villages, trees, fields, houses, or people grouped according to age, depending on the type of intervention. Whatever the units being manipulated, they must be organized in a matter that permits them to be identified, observed, recorded, counted, aggregated, and monitored.

surveillance in legibility + visibility politics

From Paul...Participation in these logics of success demands legibility. The clear reading and gridded organizing of bodies and identities that leads to prediction; predictive models that lead to policing; and modes of surveillance that accelerate and engage with every aspect of our lives

illegibility policed as a threat to the state

Thinking about Legibility