How can society generate more positive visions for our future? Social media is a natural place to start. Priyanka Kanse tells us how her moodboard media network hopes to change how we share ideas, connect with others, and how we understand the world.
It’s impossible to miss the social media landscape’s grand reshuffling, only accelerated into hyperdrive after Twitter’s collapse into X. The rapid rise and fall of Meta’s Threads, the auspicious flirtation with Mastodon, and, for the extra adventurous, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey’s Bluesky. Even TikTok has felt the strain this year.
But rather than any one company’s failings, social media in 2023 has been a marker of broader discontent, with users navigating from public forums to smaller, cozier environments.
These are environments built more around sharing discussions rather than trying to win status, building friendships rather than farming engagement, and even, suggests Priyanka Kanse, forging better futures rather than complaining about what’s broken.
A former Apple and Airbnb brand strategist, Priyanka is the founder of MAYAworld, a new type of social network built around collaborative mood boards, and “a dream for a new kind of internet.”
Social media, she says, is a single-player game. With the exception of duetting, where TikTok users patch clips side-by-side to create one video, social media content is always created by one person. “That’s not very social, is it?”
Instead, user-owned MAYAworld aims to harness the “collective energy” that comes from crafting entirely new worlds, collaboratively, on the internet. That vision is steeped in the name ‘Maya’, a Indian philosophical term that translates roughly to ‘pretense’ or ‘illusion’, a cosmic force that deceptively presents the illusory world inside our minds as a reality. “So much of what governs our material world is quite conceptual,” Priyanka explains. “Concepts like money are so woven into how we act in reality.”
The problem, she continues, is that “material reality and illusion become so tight that we cannot separate them.” What happens, then, if those illusions no longer serve us? “I don’t know if everything is at stake, but… the current concepts we have as a society do not serve the planet, and do not serve us. And our culture has become just describing the problem. We like to talk about the problem, within our existing structures — we really need to change the concepts that we use to understand the world.”
Priyanka hopes that MAYAworld can become just that: a platform where people craft new visions for the future. “The only real way to build a world is to do it collaboratively, right?” she says. “If you all join a concept, it becomes bigger, and it becomes reality.”
Worldbuilding — the act of imagining a fantastical new world with its own premise, features, and social rules — isn’t a new phenomenon. It stretches back into the annals of sci-fi and fantasy, and farther still. The concept of a ‘cinematic universe’ so successfully commercialised by Marvel dates back at least to the legends of King Arthur of England, Robin Hood, and the far more real Alexander the Great, each comprising themes, characters and locations to which many authors contributed different plots over the centuries.
“That's all truth is, right? Collective reality.”
— Priyanka Kanse, MAYAworld
But the idea that we might all be worldbuilders? Think, for a moment, of fandom and creator economies; think writing code and no-code tooling; think design and generative AI. Think of the million plus amateur worldbuilders on r/worldbuilding, crafting their own personal projects, “creating new universes”, and sharing tips from map-making to aesthetics to naming conventions.
The idea that we might all be worldbuilders is a fundamental shift our real world hasn’t yet grasped. In her essay on Dirt, Worlds are the New Brands, Terry Nguyen grapples with the meaning of co-creation in the context of making new worlds. Her conclusion, however, is that “most franchise worlds are architected to market-researched perfection.” Today’s new worlds are likelier to come via brands like Barbie or Taylor Swift than the internet’s organic creativity. Ultimately, these new worlds are designed to extract value from society, not add to it.
Priyanka believes that MAYAworld’s mood boards can give voice to that organic creativity. “When you are creating a concept or something else that doesn’t exist, you always start with a mood board,” she explains. “My personal mood board, which I made half a decade ago at Apple, is still a guide for me today. You get to see the scope of people’s dreams, how they feel, how much they feel they can dream for themselves. I hope MAYAworld gives people the power to say ‘I create my own reality, and reality is something we can grow together.’”
In that spirit, multiplayer curation takes center stage in MAYAworld, which provides the tools for people to chart the course of their own hopes and dreams. By encouraging us to focus our attention on our own ambitions and those of others, rather than an infinite scroll of sixty-second content, MAYAworld hopes to shift our focus towards a better future, and create a new collective reality. “That’s all truth is, right? Collective reality.”
“We need to change the concepts that we use to understand the world.”
— Priyanka Kanse, MAYAworld
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