Back in Q4 of 2020, I started ‘Dimensino‘. An ongoing scrapbook about the on going development of the Crypto / Web3 ecosystem, and the technical development of the coming ‘Metaverse’. This period is now ‘Season 1’.
Following Season 1 I
recklessly signed a bunch of NDAs, and became entangled in very fulfilling advisory role. However, as of this week they have expired.
So I am now free have Ideas about Web3 and the Blockchain space on my blog without reporting to someone else about them first.
Despite all being only 2 years, 2 months old, Season 1 predates almost all of what we think of as ‘Web3’ today. These posts are so old I’m still using the term Dweb not Web3! The posts predate the 2021 NFT explosion and culture war that followed, metaverse hype and comprehensive DAO tooling.
This year – 2023 – the most of the interesting thing that will emerge from the blockchain space without a doubt will be ‘worlds’ related.
To kick off Season 2, however over the next few posts I want to take a look back at Season 1 and see how I did back in 2020.
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This post is probably the most (personally) important post from Season 1. It has more or less defining the direction of my life since. Without it, I wouldn’t be working in and helping shape the discipline of World Running today.
Permissive IP: a mash up of ‘Internet Protocol vs Intellectual Property’
Given the affordances the Dweb, lets split the difference
Permissive: Intellectual Protocols
As Web3 lays the foundations for the Metaverse, new types of procedures legal arrangements, systems of rules for governing intellectual property and the returning value directly to creators and communities will be made possible
The vision of Permissive IPs I articulate in the post has more or less driven/described the most successful NFT projects that emerged in the following years.
I can imagine scenarios in the future where communities create, own, control, vote on licensing and earn money from their participation in worlds built around properties of their own creation. Permissive IPs will be administered by DAOs.
Given I wrote that in 2020 … How close do you think I got to the world we live in now?
For example, Yuga Labs just hit a $4 Billion USD Valuation after its latest funding round. Their virtual world/metaverse project Otherside (BAYC universe) will be (more or less) administered by DAO community governance.
There are now all sorts of projects that could be defined as Permissive IPs: The amazing FringeDrifters film project (from the makers of 2018 indie sci-fi movie Prospect staring Pedro Pascal!). They are doing absolutely amazing things with their Drifters NFTs and community co-creation and world building.
I’ve had several calls with the Team over the years and went on a Twitter space with them late last year [Right].
Super cool project. I’m behind them all the way, I made sure I gave them a shout out in the 2023 Canada Media Fund trend report.
Other interesting Permissive IP projects off the top of my head are, wagdie, crypto pills and their Endomo project. Plus a few I’ve consulted with/worked on that have failed before launch or died a death of obscurity.
It is deeply amusing to me that for all the jokes about ‘right-click-save-as’ during the white hot heat of the NFT culture war, the most successful projects are the ones licensed under permissive licences or fully public domain.
In fact, many projects have updated their licences to put their JPGS into the public domain. The most high profile probably being Digg.com founder Kevin Rose’s Moonbirds NFTs.
The affordances of a programmable file format with extendable metadata stored on a secure public ledger have allowed for an explosion in interesting experiments around ownership, all without the protections of ‘traditional’ copyright.
The actual nitty gritty of smart contracts and Permissive IPs and the future (and remittances, credit etc) are still to be worked out. It’s going to take years to unpick and reboot a framework that’s been around since the 1700’s that benefits some of the biggest corporations in the world. AND also ensure the legality and enforceability of smart contracts in they physical world. FWIW English Common Law seems to be the way forward.
But hot damn I think this might be the work of our generation? Being completely saturated in digital media as we are, it’s worth a try. Given the mess thats arisen just this week around centralised exchanges not honouring artist royalties and psychopathic arguments by NGMI people who don’t want to pay them – theres a significant cultural argument to be made too.
Speaking of which, I’m extremely grateful to Holly Herndon and Matt Dryhurst for their embrace of the term Permissive IP.
They have used it both in the context of Identity play, when describing the Holly+ project, and to describe the sort of IP regime that could possibly come about in the post machine learning, large language model world in their work with Spawning.ai project.
Alongside the developments in Permissive IPs, AI generation. my continuing engagement with Solarpunk, and other World Running endeavours: I am 100% convinced that community owned, co-created worlds, and stories are the future of media. We are entering the age of the Power Fandom.
The MCU is fucking over – if you want it.
Without braking any current NDA’s, it’s my observation that the Permissiveness of an IP and fostering the aliveness of its worlds are the biggest stumbling block for VCs with bucket loads of cash who want to invest in this space.
VC: And then we give it all away?”
ME: What you traditionally think as being the valuable bit yes
ME: You need to spend a fuck load of money, and then put it all into the public domain.
Verticals of One (Vx1) remains my long term vision for the type of UX the decentralised web will eventually have. The focus on Protocols not Platforms continues to convince me that Vx1 are still the direction of travel for technological development and UX.
A Vertical of One is an individual with access to a complete ensemble of discrete, modular plug and play technologies. Such as: financial plumbing, dynamic IP ownership, content delivery, walled gardens, community gates, governance tools, and smart contracts operating at different levels of abstraction. Interoperable, yet vertically integrated to produce one (nominally seamless) user experience.
Once met – individuals operating as Verticals of One will be able to seamlessly enter and exit new forms of Alegal organisations built around a “nexus of contracts”. Associate with, create, own, and retain collective value. Whilst cooperating inside an ecosystem of new monetary fabrics.
I feel like crypto culture has been overly (understandably) focused on one element of blockchains – the creation and organisation of value. However the current bear market seems to be bringing some other core affordances of Ethereum and other EVM compatible chains to the fore. Namely: permanence/longevity and composability – not just value and ownership.
Vx1 is an attempt to describe what the UX paradigm looks like when multiple core functions of the dweb stack are composable. In my professional life I’ve found that the term has lots of utility when discussing the kinds of technologies needed to underpin the Metaverse.
Vx1’s are essentially personal routes ’though’ what Jacob over at Zora protocol has named ‘the hyper-structure’.
Hyperstructures take the form of protocols that run on blockchains. Something can be considered a hyperstructure if it is:
- Unstoppable: the protocol cannot be stopped by anyone. It runs for as long as the underlying blockchain exists.
- Free: there is a 0% protocol wide fee and runs exactly at gas cost.
- Valuable: accrues value which is accessible and exitable by the owners.
- Expansive: there are built-in incentives for participants in the protocol.
- Permissionless: universally accessible and censorship resistant. Builders and users cannot be deplatformed.
- Positive sum: it creates a win-win environment for participants to utilize the same infrastrastructure.
- Credibly neutral: the protocol is user-agnostic.
At the time of writing I thought it obvious that ‘The Platform’ is the route you take between you and the database (protocol). But following conversations with normies stuck in Web2, non modular, non-GPL code world – when articulating this today – I now add ‘protocols’ to the bottom of the platform stack.
Putting protocol under tools in the diagram is a serious divergence from Rival’s original model. Even I don’t agree with the diagram above, but people can be slow on the uptake, so protocol as substrate has had to go in.
A year after publishing this piece, it was fun to see Patrick from Sentier.Media’s thinking evolve on web3 in real time back in Dec 2021. You can read his ‘thoughts on web 3’ and see the influence that ‘Dimensino Season 1 had on it here.
Another piece in his excellent Dimensino series, Discord, DAOs and the Dweb builds on the item above, extending to Discord and Decentralized Autonomous Organizations, part of my ‘this is inevitable’ conclusion. It’s also where I circle back to my Platforms2 item where TOOLS run on a blockchain and are accessed and acted upon through ‘classic’ Web interfaces. Web3 as an accelerating movement of new infrastructures that merges with the existing web, nor a replacement, an enhancement.
Joining or Forming a DAO
The Vx1 UX example I gave in this post was about ‘theoretically’ joining or forming a DAO.
Written 2020 I said that they would be the main area of upcoming development in Web3 and have been pretty vindicated on this.
I will address this in Part 2 but working in worlds / DAOs / Web3 in the intervening years has revealed a lot about the importance of breaking apart coordination and governance mechanisms in DAO design. Having been under NDA I’ve obliquely talked about this on my blog quite a bit. Posts coming in Season 2 soon based on writing and thinking from 2021!
To cap this off, last year I taught a two module (12 week) course on DAO Design Fiction at the New Centre and the answer to the question ‘what could DAO’s be’ have a lot further to go to catch up with peoples dreams for them.
‘Crypto Fandom’ – as I like to call it – remains totally out of control: Off the top of my head the the following recent (or ongoing) events stick out: The total collapse of FTX, the ongoing Rider Ripps vs JPEG Apes lawsuit, Mike Novogratz getting a Luna tattoo and it immediately crashing, Martin Shkreli launched a crypto currency named after himself, the Queen died and a project launched an NFT depicting her as a skeleton the same day, Kim Kardashian got fined for shilling, and again FTX, Bankman-Fried, effective altruism, the polycule. Oh lord. What a year it’s all been highly entertaining. This is before I even think back to the craziness of the NFT boom of 2021.
And yet Satoshi Nakamoto’s thesis that the digital creation of real world value remains sound. Since I published this post there has been a whole lot of value created and a lot of work put into the organisation of it.
At its core this article was about two things. The Metaverse, and how important organising the value created there is going to be.
It’s funny to see myself saying NFT’s ‘are coming’ – I had no idea lol. I link to Crypto kitties’s wikipedia page as at the time of writing explaining NFTs to people was really really hard. And subsequent to the great JPG culture war – they still are.
I explain that NFTs will form a key part of establishing virtual property in the Metaverse, how useful organising digital value in virtual environments is with a Blockchain etc and how NFTs can also represent goods in the physical as well as digital.
I also linked to the 2020 Zora manifesto:
The platforms that hold our audiences and content hostage. The labels that lock down our rights. The galleries that hold our art ransom. The big brands that think exposure is cash. They have a monopoly on ownership, a monopoly on creativity and they have been robbing us of the value we create for as long as there’s been a creative industry.
The deals were cut in advance and we got cut out.The big brands, suits, and monopoly men own the revenue, the files, the rights, the email addresses — what’s left for the creator? What’s left for the fan?
Which in my opinion feels even more relevant in 2023 than it did back then.
Another point mentioned in this post is that DAO’s we rein 2020 the most exciting part of the blockchain space – which they still remain to me. DAOS allow for the COORDINATION of value not just the organisation of it.
The key takeaway is that blockchains are both a SOURCE of value, but also ORGANISE it. It’s right there in the title.
But returning in 2023 to the idea’s introduced in Vx1 and this post I can now summarise this post in 3 lines:
Protocol’s CREATE value
Smart Contracts/Tools ORGANISE it
This post was a call to Be your own publisher.
Being so focused on crowd funding and community owned IP in this article I missed that you could also … publish other people. Yancey Strickler and co’s Metalabel concept is one of the most encouraging and hopeful moves in the cultural space since this post was published.
This post is a bit all over the place – it touches on the state of crowdfunding, the relationship artists/musicians have with publishers and labels, and future file formats that allow ‘Programmable Publishing’. I also mention the Future Art Ecosystems book series from the Serpentine Gallery I was involved with.
I still think some of whats in here is useful though.
There are currently two trends in going in different directions. The first is the wider cultural sphere loosing trust in – and shifting away from – institutions. The other is the re-imagination of institutions from the bottom up. Eventually I think the two trends will meet in the middle.
The area’s of the creative economy that I’m most connected with gave up on institutions 10+ years ago, and continue to forge ahead building their own. This is a current I’ve been swept up in since at least 2012. There has been explosion of Interest in institution building, and governance and coordination and I’m all for it.
As Metalabels and new institutional infrastructures become more robust from bottom up, they will catch more and more people falling out of the traditional top down way of doing things.
Anyways, my own call for ‘programmable publishing’ has not exactly come about as I envisioned in this post. But all sorts of inspiring programmable works have been produced: From people like Harm van den Dorpel and his work with Genetic algorithms. Songcamp’s headless band Chaos, Ed Fornieles’s Finiliar project, and other work from people like David Greenstein (Sound.xyz). 𝔦𝔪𝔭𝔬𝔰𝔰𝔦𝔟𝔩𝔢 ⟠ 𝔬𝔟𝔧𝔢𝔠𝔱 are doing interesting things re-imagining publishing, and Simon de la Rouviere with his Sci-fi permissive IP project housed at untitledfrontier.studio.
As a last aside, one of the problems faced by projects trying to do programmable publishing in the NFT space, is that big marketplaces like Open Sea don’t update their cache’s quickly enough (if it all). Resulting in updates occurring but not everyone being able to see, or take advantage of them. In the spirit of being your own publisher, many NFT projects are building their own web storefronts. Which might be a good thing if royalties aren’t going to be paid out or enforced.
All in all, Early Access Artists post was a bit hit and miss, but the spirit of this post was gesturing towards the direction things are/have/continue to move in.
Beyond that ‘Season 2’ of Dimensino will begin to unfold regularly on the blog once again. You can follow this series by grabbing the dedicated RSS here, or subscribe via email below.