Identifying and naming places in Witness: how to do it?

Going through the stories set in Witness, I have noticed that not many places are named. This is starting to become a problem for the liveliness of the stories that are being written.

Right off the bat, we need to decide if Distrikts have cities or are cities. It seems that, when @yudhanjaya started drafting, Distrikts were meant to be cities. For example, the Witnesspedia entry for the Assembly refers to “the city center”; of the Covenant, we are told that “it resembles Riga, Latvia”, and so on. Only Avantgrid has a small capital city, Akur.

I propose we change this. Reason: a Witness made of only 5-6 Distrikt-cities could not underpin the economic and social complexity that we want… unless, of course. you were speaking of 5-6 megalopoles, with 10-25 million inhabitants each for Hygge, the Covenant, the Assembly and Libria. We know Avantgrid is small, as is the Dandelion Republic.

There are two possibilities:

  1. Distrikts are like countries, with the population of small-to-midsize states: 5 to 50 million inhabitants. I imagine Libria and Hygge as the largest. Each has 2-4 notable cities, including a Distrikt capital.
  2. Distrikts are like city-states, each with 10-25 million inhabitants (we have not seen a 50 million-inhabitants city yet). If we do that, the notion of “a city” becomes very hard to represent: for humans to perceive a place as vivid, it needs to be human-scaled. This is how non-Americans perceive New York: through the visual and social signatures of Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx. So, we would need to invent neighborhoods within the city-Distrikts.

I think I like option 1 best, but am ready to change my mind.

Questions to @yudhanjaya @Joriam @hugi @lidiazuin @iouxo @nadia:

  1. Which of the two solutions above do you find more convincing?
  2. How would one generate a plausible name for a city (option 1) or a neighborhood (option 2) in Witness? Think “John Zdanov teaches math at the University of PLACENAME” or “My sister had to go to the hospital in PLACENAME for a blood test”.
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Im for #1 - Tokyo is what, 36million or so?

#1 looks like a good choice.

Goro could decide the names for cities.

And I think it already created one, for Hygge “Concord City”


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Haha, good point!

Indeed, when we originally started, Distrikts were MUCH smaller - but I think we now need the complexity of a Greater Delhi (30 mill people?) or a Tokyo for each Distrikt. Fairly easy to work into the canon: Witness makes landfall a couple of times (shown in our illustrations already) and picks up survivors from the 12 other unnamed floating cities.

I think we may now be at the stage where a rudimentary map might be useful.

As for names: simple. Unless we have a specific history in mind for a place and an etymology to match, we can use any of the generators here:

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Ok if I have this I can work it into the new illustrations

Ok, but you are the Architect: what aesthetics would you like us to use?

I could put cats in the visuals…just saying.

Yes, I concur with this!

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  • Covenant is inspired by the Vatican and Byzantine systems, and as such would retain a certain Latin or pig-latin nomenclature
  • Hygge is all over the place, reflecting its multistakeholder model, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sarawati Avenue right next to Ptolemy Boulevard.
  • Dandelion Republic frames itself in terms of ecosystems and flora. Root, Seed etc are functional names taken from biological systems
  • Libria gives outsize power to corps. So in the middle of a grid system (33rd and 9th etc), you’d see Tiburon Plaza. Reflective of “One Microsoft Way”.
  • Assembly is trying to make for itself a fresh history and improve accessibility in nomenclature. So names like “Mass Farm 03”, “Southwest Beachfront”, as well as a smattering of places named after people who were really important to its political history (Anagram Public Park) etc.
  • Avantgrid - @hugi?
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So that’s the state of my rough sketch of Assembly (all green is to be replaced with edible plants, raising everything higher above water on platform, other materials for buildings. But centre is perfocrming arts centre with altcrtldel statude

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That’s beautiful, @nadia. It’s a bit of Soviet modernism + some gentleness and organicness.

@alberto and @yudhanjaya I’m now writing and recording script for immersion video with which we will open event on 29th. Am thinking about how to introduce edgeryders. Seedling of the state machine? 21st century organisation/tribe that set in motion what Denton would then go off to realise? Voice of God?

Would that one had the voice of Morgan Freeman.

Ha. Had not seen that one coming.

But no, I think: Denton is a product of Project Viking, so he is a high UN bureaucrat. In the canon, Witness is not the brainchild of bottom-up movements, but of top-down IGOs.

so what, a cult of which denton was a part?

No, Denton’s trajectory is consistent with his belief that the right way to run a society is by enlightened technocracy and multistakeholder approach. I do not know how to introduce edge culture here. There are fragments everywhere: in the decentralized approach of the Assembly, in the near-survivalism of Avantgrid, in aethnography itself.

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ok equivalent of conference of Europe where he first comes across idea from edgelings? Then runs with it?

I only named a single place in Avantgrid, and that’s Akur. It is the Icelandic word for “field”. But it would be weird for Avantgrid names to be overly influenced by an a tiny arcane Nordic language.

Actually, I could imagine there being many different competing nomenclatures in Avantgrid. Originally most of the islands were named by Librian super-rich as resort locations, so they probably had corporate names to begin with, or names to sell some experience. There was probably a “Lion Island” and “Wolfisle” for big game hunting experiences, as well as a nostalgic “Ultima Thule” Viking theme park or an “New Maui” complete with a fake little volcano. Librians probably hold on to these names, sort of like the older generation of colonialist English who still call Zimbabwe “Rhodesia”.

As for how the islanders themselves name places, I would expect there to be a culture of choosing rather understated, simple but poetic names. There are probably plenty of little villages called things like “Lakeside”, “Pinewood” or “Morning Dew” - and sometimes variations of that in different languages. And seeing that it’s a refuge for Orthodox religious types, there are probably a hodgepodge of places named after saints and holy people. I could imagine there being a “Seraphim Temple” in the village of “Nachman” or a “ Chapel to our Lady of the Waves” at a settlement called “Krishna” (Avantgridi probably having a wide range of mixed up belief systems, as often becomes the case in places there is both a mix of cultures and isolated communities).


please not ultima thule though :slight_smile: