Well Made

Ep. 148 Making meaning with Reggie James

May 27, 2021 · RSS · Apple Podcasts

An online identity is a cyclical existence that feeds on the past. Reggie James calls the pre-Facebook internet "proto-identity." From there, we quickly excelled from profile pages to performative identity, slicing up our full self into concise slivers.

Reggie James is the CEO and founder of Eternal, a new kind of identity platform. He's rejecting the comforting nostalgia of what users have "liked," and building a new way forward. In this episode, he challenges what we think about when we think about our online identity, praises the future-thinking theories of game design, and pushes product designers to think beyond the container.

“Essentially, we gave people a lot of tools without any sort of unified narrative. Those [tools] coincided with some really interesting cultural explosions, and now people are standing around asking, 'What's next?'”

5:58 What does the world look like if Eternal is successful? It's not an easy question to answer, but Reggie traces back the evolution of social media, staking out the source of platforms that rewards over simplicity over nuance. He thinks Twitch is one of the most underrated platforms out there. 

23:07 "Cybernetic." What does it mean to Reggie and why does he use that word so much?

25:25 "We are as gods and might as well get good at it." Reggie and Stephan are always inspired by Stewart Brand and the Whole Earth Catalog. Brand's concepts for the future were prophetic. Which of his tools and articulations have we accomplished and how far do we still have to go?

39:03 The platforms we use are containers, with little structure or a shared narrative. A big part of what's missing, Reggie says, is the concept of groups. "Groups are the most powerful force. And your friend group is a definitive piece of who you are, and should be embraced as such."

49:40 This podcast could be more popular if it was about one thing. But it’s not. We’re exploring. How can the internet lead you into new interests instead of following the ones you already have?

54:25 In 2019, Reggie wrote a post titled "Developing My Personal Product Language". Over a year later, he's reflecting on each of his points, clarifying and disputing his writing. 

1:07:26 To close, Reggie and Stephan talk sci-fi, and squeeze in even more book recommendations.


Also mentioned on the show: 

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