Our brain never accesses what philosopher Immanuel Kant called the ding an sich (thing-in-itself). Instead, our brain only has access to the physical and chemical energy it detects from the world. And while that data might be useful, it's inherently meaningless. 

Which means every time you open your eyes, your brain is looking through pages and pages of behavioural history written by billions of other brains that came before you. You are looking through their story. Stories that keep us all alive. Making our perceptions, as Joan Didion writes in The White Album, the story we “... tell ourselves stories in order to live”. 

It is this process of narrativization that is us. And what is true for each of us is also true for the places in which we live. 

Location exists much like light exists. It is a thing that can be described by its essential qualities. It has Euclidean coordinates, distances, physicality. All of which may or may not be useful. None of which is meaningful. 

What, then, would happen if we were made aware of the meanings of the places around us?

The Lab of Misfits has created W_nder to help us discover those meanings. It’s a storytelling platform that gives the collective narrative of communities in their own voice about the places in which they live. Users can discover, record and share moments that tie us together through the places that are common to all of us.

Download the app here.

Through W_nder, we can become aware that we are inextricably linked. Place becomes our ‘extended phenotype’..… a literal extension of one to the other … and back again.


Because much like a spider’s web makes ‘no sense’ outside the context of the spider, location makes no sense outside of the context of each of us. And since no one brain exists in isolation, that perceptual meaning that each of us sees and lives by is necessarily encoded across all of our brains. 

Weaving a story of self with the story of our world ... and back again is what integrates across diversity. And integration - and not just diversity - is what makes a person, a society and a culture robust and resilient. It solidifies the ‘ghost’ of our society, increasing opacity of self and other. Only in this way can the world become truly alive and us alive in it. 

Maybe herein lies the story’s capacity to heal: By proactively becoming part of a larger narrative of the world, and indeed embodying it, only then do we come into true existence.

And maybe this is a reason for sharing meaningful stories of place in particular. Because the meaning of place is an extension of a larger ecology that has the capacity to connect … and in that connection create existence, which decreases isolation and loneliness and offers the gift of existence to another, which (as I have suggested in our previous blog) is possibly one of the greatests gifts anyone can give or receive.

Our shared, dynamic perceptual meaning we call reality is the whirlpool that coheres us; though imperfect, it is alive, and it is what keeps us alive … together. 

This is the power of place … this is the power of its story. 

You can be part of it.

So, that is our aim with W_nder. To increase integration and decrease isolation by adding a shared, constructed meaning to the people and places in which we live through personal stories. So … discover, record and share moments that tie us together. Our shared history from communities across the world, all in one place. 

There are millions stories in the world, add yours.


Written by: Beau Lotto.


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