“the other basic unit of society” after family: “whatever collective history we still have is the history of collectives.” Originally sociology jargon, the term gained currency (alongside socium, pl. socia, with which it largely overlaps) but rarely as anyones self-reference; mainstream usage still prefers vaguer community. Mind-only, Human-only, mixed; lifelong live-inscastle growers — and brief textuals of zero “elbow time”; science schools, artistic communities, teaching circles, professional guilds, the City and the Library: “the fabric of the civilization” is a vast, throbbing, dynamically hierarchical continuum of collectives and metacollectives awash in the stream. ■    Exponential growth, saturation, crisis, decline: a typical collective goes through the recognizable stages of a “pulse graph,” with a surprisingly stable median duration of four years; the first pulse of a new collective is usually the most vigorous but rarely the last: weaker pulses follow, separated by irregular, gradually increasing intervals of rest. Past all pulsing, a collective may linger indefinitely in a stable memorial state — depeopled but maintaining the most routine of its activities; if it survives long enough it may start growing again, pulselessly at first, fueled by its history and time-sieved lore.  ■    In early crisis, a collective tends to fork out child groups inheriting the parental drive but often divergent in scope and aims. Larger metacollectives — rings, movements, networks — coalesce, fractally similar to their constituents: they also share a high-level lore, are governed by consensus, have a natural pulsation frequency (an order of magnitude slower than atomic collectives); places owned by metacollectives may become streampoints that incubate socia by concentrating the like-minded.  ■    Whatever idea, undertaking, tradition, service might be at the core, a collective is always a response to a perceived challenge — a world-cant-go-on-without imperative evangelized by the founders and electrifying the flock. Like an individual, a collective needs to score creative achievements to remain healthy and pulsing; internal lores and languages dont count for much unless distilled into something universally valued. An infertile memorial collective only survives for as long — which can be long indeed, though — as an afterglow of its past creativity remains perceptible. ■    Most of collectivedom is classifiable into fandoms and projects. Art groups of all kinds, many knowledge (but rarely science) communities are fandoms: tightly bound, hierarchical, sometimes outwardly authoritarian, nurturing birthright and personal loyalties, lore-centric — even ritualistic, relatively closed and isolated (more often live-ins). Smaller, agiler, ubiquitous projects — in science, lifemaking, streamwork, though art projects are common too — are flatter, sparser, more textual, rarely with any formal membership or rituals; theres no birthright, loyalty is due to the groups explicit goals — not lore or personalities. All collectives are mortal but only a project knowingly accepts, even celebrates an end to its life — the projects conclusion; fandoms — stable, flagging, memorial, fossilized — crave for eternity.  ■    As they exist today, collectives only work in a centerless sparsened society — but people have always formed groups other than familial and tribal: monasteries, guilds, theater and circus troupes, even gangs and armies; maturing modernity saw an explosion of intentional communities, art and science sects; fantasy, roleplaying, “creative achronism” movements were a major influx. Collective used to stress the non-hierarchical nature of an association where any authority is short-term, situational, meritocratic; later it generalized to any group that is broadly consensual (even if its consensual inequality) and “aspires to bring newth into the world.” ■    One of modernitys nicknames was “age of corporations”: as the blood-and-soil bonds eroded, corporations became a dominant form of social structuring. Entrenched in the economy, variously closed and unfree, competitively selected (so striving to grow, like armies whose power is in numbers), corporations suffered the “single-metric disease” of defining success through a few external measurables — failing on which was a self-fulfilling death knell. By contrast, early collectives embodied the “burdensome freedom” — the live ethics complexity of “judging oneself by ones own rules” even at the expense of competitiveness or universal appeal (not to mention lifespan). “Synthesis won the war”: for all the antagonism, modernitys corporations are recognized as a major influence on the evolution of collectives. ■    At the largest of scales, historical nations were fragmenting, nationalisms retreating from quickly evaporating politics into culture (or just language). Super-nations leaked meaningfulness profusely; smaller ones, closer to tribes or clans, fared better — some eventually evolved into fandoms — but were losing steam as well (genetics revealed the inextricability of ancestries: so much for literal birthright). Many bewailed “the fall of Babylon” — “disintegration of humankind” (as if prideful, heavily armed nation-states were better keepers of unity than the informal associations which, for all their variety, never went to war with one another); after the tornado of sparsening, the coalescence of collectives — the “third atomization,” overlapping with the second — forced people to relive the entire tree of social intuitions, bending and branching it differently this time. ■    Persons to collectives is a many-to-many relationship: many devote a life or more to a “primary” (not necessarily a live-in) but may have other affiliations, usually for a duration of a single pulse; most gravitate to one of the poles — fandoms or projects — but rarely to the exclusion of the other. Collectiving is a lifestyle universal, especially if you adjust the (already fuzzy) collective/family boundary; even for convinced loners theres always some group to which they emphatically do not belong.  ■    “Core vs. lore” is the dualism of body (membership) vs. soul (memory and culture) — of aging vs. growth: lore develops by accreting, core by replacement. Lore — “ars longa” — grows libraries and artifacts, accumulates redundancies, crystallizes upon an ownable (castle, garden); short-lived cores fork, merge (rarely seamlessly), quietly dissolve or go bang (a next pulse cant start until the core is sufficiently renewed); “those whod stay no matter what” are typically under a dozen minds, limited by the effectiveness scale of consensus. Core half-life is, paradoxically, shorter in conservative fandoms where a members quitting may prompt an exodus of those linked by personal loyalty; in result-oriented projects, collaborators' priorities drift but they are less prone to contagious disenchantment.  ■    No collective is fully immune to machiavellian manipulation, ego battles, congealing into a cult-like hierarchy; even the historically unprecedented freedom from materiality — the seductive ease to congregate at the shortest notice, to “start a new life” whenever and wherever — is at the same time a liability, new powers mean new dangers as well as new conveniences. Libraries have been written on lifemaking safety in socia: tragedies of famous collectives left ample material for study and speculation.  ■    Consciously or not, collectives imitate family that evolved to defuse conflicts, curb power and resource fights — to nurture happiness in the unhappiest times and places. To deal with uneven distribution of leadership energy and the “communal syndrome” (shared responsibility undermines initiative), collectives develop per-person roles — acknowledged “owns,” sometimes with elaborate behavior codes, arbitration rules, various buttons on the back; an escape from uniformity, role lets one feel needed and unique. (Projects have been associated with consensus government and fandoms with rolework structures, but the reality is often reversed: fandoms' ritual authority would detonate if not based on a silent consensus, whereas projects are too obsessed with truth and perfection to care about building consensus or retaining dissenters; thus dynamic task-focused roles naturally emerge in projects while many fandoms only have symbolic sinecure “mantles.”) ■    At its most consciously fundamental, Everday avoids distinguishing between “in-game” and “the real world”: “depending on context, everything or nothing you do is a game”; this doubleness of vision enables just what the atomized social structure tries to contain: minds' tendency to clump, proselytize, fight and martyr for their truths. Transparency is delayed but nothing is hidden forever, and the freedom to quit — fleedom, always with an air of Crusoe bliss — is inalienable: here are the crucial safety valves; as a last line of defense against the “collective inferno,” consensus and rolework habits are proactively educated in throughout the formative years — in the family, in open childhood wanderings, on the Road. The biggest (therefore routinely blindspotted) reason for why modern collectives are possible is humanity having changed and sparsened — becoming, on average, less domineering, less assertive, less prone to aggression; just as importantly (last emancipation), no longer depending on chance alone in how one looks and feels.  ■    There may be elaborate visitor codes but few collectives can afford closing off to guests and aspirants, none permanently; a wide anti-isolationism consensus — constant stream pressure to unfold and interact — is always felt: “growth is healthy,” “the price of gaining elbow room is losing a sideways perspective on yourself.” A collective can drive out those who wont fit in but must accept good-faith newcomers (especially youth); dont try too hard to sort serious applicants from superficial know-alls — theyll sort out themselves when they must; all kinds of attention surge when theres a “smell of interesting” around your community. ■    Which may mean youre in trouble; travelers hopping from group to group, with or without joining, often become whistleblowers — and a stressed collectives first aid: acting, consciously or not, as elements of a “global immune system,” they come, engage (no secret agenting or direct preaching: “caring trumps righteousness”), learn, befriend; many will shruggingly quit — but someone, eventually, will ingrow and transform it all from the inside. A collective is an open system balancing its internal drive against outside pressures; the quickly evaporating but always dutifully renewed halo of signaling, preventive, reformative nudges by passers-by — strictly personal, never too efficient, no matter how clumsy and contradictory — may be the only ethically defensible way to sustain the whole of a scattered world.

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