New Modality Team:
Profile of Lydia Laurenson edited, in an endlessly recursive loop,
by Lydia Laurenson
Photo courtesy of (you know what's coming...) Lydia Laurenson
Last update: October 21, 2019
I am — I mean, Lydia Laurenson is — the founder and editor in chief of The New Modality. This is me answering the questions I asked all our contributors and Catalysts to answer for their profiles, which feels surprisingly weird, but I'm rolling with it.
Hi Lydia! What's your official bio?
I’ve spent my career working on media, technology, community-building, and social good. My writing has appeared in the Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic, Vice's tech publication Motherboard, and other publications. I've spoken and organized events at Stanford, U. C. Berkeley, University of Chicago, and other universities; at museums like Jane Addams Hull-House Museum; and at conferences like SXSW. These credits are how you know I am a Serious Person.
I also have a Secret Past as a pseudonymous BDSM writer and teacher (seriously) and I've got quite a bit of experience with what one might call "the counterculture." I participate enthusiastically in many weird subcultures, including but definitely not limited to Burning Man. I've lived in co-living spaces for most of my adult life (the same type of spaces that alt-right trolls have attempted to campaign against, while calling them "open hotbeds of liberal radicalism and degeneracy"). I've held elected positions in some co-living communities — indeed, I was Chairman of the Board at one democratic co-living network in Chicago for a while.
What are some of your favorite past projects? Why do you feel great about them?
In 2017, The Battery — a social club in San Francisco devoted to arts, culture, and philanthropy — created a new print magazine called The Battery Candy. They hired me as managing editor while Issue 1 was being produced. I commissioned, edited, and/or wrote all articles for the first five issues. It was a great project because it gave me a chance to highlight amazing art, culture, and philanthropy of the Bay Area, plus I learned how to make a high-quality print magazine. I couldn't be creating The New Modality today without that experience.
Another experience that informed how we've built The New Modality was the years I spent as director of strategy & research for News Deeply, a small but brilliant geopolitical journalism company, where I learned a great deal about how journalism intersects with think tanks, statesmanship, and policy work. Also, my first full-time job in Silicon Valley was at Tugboat Yards, a now-closed startup that made tools to help indie internet publishers monetize their content, which started me down the path of user research & digital media product design.
Earlier this year, 2019, I published two in-depth policy briefs about the impact of digital media on society, which were commissed by a Japanese peacebuilding organization called the Toda Peace Institute. That was great because I have a long-standing interest in how digital media intersects with society and governance. I've done a bunch of consulting on the topic, but haven't previously had the chance to publish my research. (I've also had an interest in international peacebuilding work since I served as a public health volunteer in the U.S. Peace Corps in my mid-twenties, working in the HIV program in Swaziland, Africa.)
Um... what else? Probably the most widely read article I ever wrote was my 2016 piece for Vice, "My Year In San Francisco’s $2 Million Secret Society Startup," in which I documented the rise and fall of an art project that was also a tech startup that was also a secret society. It's hard to say if that's my best-known article, though, because a lot of the stuff I wrote under my BDSM educator pseudonym Clarisse Thorn went viral and I published some books and stuff but anyway.
I started my career back in 2005 as a game designer and writer at the small but mighty White Wolf Game Studio, working primarily on their award-winning Exalted game line, a kung fu high action game about heroism and enchantment. In those years, roughly 2005-2008, my day job was manager of an used & antiquarian bookstore. It was a tough but interesting gig, because that was a major time of transition for the industry as it reckoned with the initial impact of the Internet. At least I got to read books all the time.
Sometimes I think my entire career has just been looking at media and communty from every possible angle.
Shouldn't you answer at least one more question?
Probably, but I have to edit this publication....
Hit me up on Twitter @lydialaurenson if you have, like, real questions. I'll add the fun ones here!
This profile was written by Lydia Laurenson, editor in chief of The New Modality. Nobody fact-checked this profile and nobody ever will. (In all seriousness, you can learn more about The New Modality's fact-checking and epistemological ideas by reading the page about our process for truth and transparency.)