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March 22nd, 2022

1 Art?

2 Psy Ops?

4 Community focused NFT project?

8 The first stage of !denzadol launched last week.

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February 4th, 2022

Genuary was scorching and humid this year in Melbourne. I spent the month, happily, at the extreme far left edge of the curve of all the graphs - eg. the midwit graph, the Dunning Krueger. Hanging in the ‘you don’t even know that you know nothing’ zone is not an achievement, but it is an open space for play. In this short piece I draw some dots between creation and ownership in this open play zone, revealed in the digital art via NFT landscape.

Some of my best friends are coders and their coloured text on black screen { tap tap tap semi-colon } activity always seemed puzzling yet deeply uninteresting to me - runes for a dumb computer. Then Daniel Shiffman arrived in my life via hundreds of youtube videos and The Coding Train - short tutorials teaching p5.js creative coding from the beginning. The beginning. This guy, Shiffman, is a hero and an icon. In an age of alleged soft skills and storytellers, there is only one (it’s Shiffman) who can so clearly and enthusiastically communicate fundamentals of code to non-coders.

I hope it's sweet for u too, Daniel
I hope it's sweet for u too, Daniel

Starting with nothing (literal blank screen, empty brain) and creating something is an amniotic miracle. Doing it in the open play zone of childlike wonder, before your own (let alone others’) expectations have caught up, is a joy. The strict ‘rightness’ or error of code gift a solid scaffold for the skill-free to learn creatively - through iteration, experimentation, trial and try again.

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January 8th, 2022

I began describing Nuxui, but ended up writing about Nic Hamilton’s other work.

Nuxui, Nic’s new NFT series, is made of 333 compositions of strange (yet familiar) objects, mechanic and organic fragments, tactile materials, and thick atmospheres. The arrangements grow and decay across the spectrum of the series. They are overlaid with still and moving blurs and held within the frame of a digital viewport. The pieces are captivating - decorative talismans / liquifying circuitboards.

The elements of the compositions - objects, material, atmosphere, viewport, growth + decay, spectrum - are common threads in Nic’s work. Trying to describe Nuxui means following and unravelling these threads.

I scroll distractedly through his retired tumblr to see the 3D forms and visual atmospheres evolve and layer up across a ten year back-catalogue. Nic opines generously on twitter and discord but doesn’t talk earnestly about his work, so I open the archives to remind myself. Scrolling right down to the bottom of the page, a video of scratchy 3D and pixels is a visual accompaniment for IWAAD, a track by London producer Actress. Nic sent it to Actress like, hi, I made this. Since this meeting, his visuals have often augmented Actress’ music videos, record art and concerts.

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December 20th, 2021

Density and lightness. Seriousness and irreverence. Intensive labour and exuberant joy. You can have these in the same breath.

This is what density and lightness look like in artist Case Simmons’ 2021 Clouds on Chains series:

To start with, two decades browsing the infinity of images on the web. Searching via multiple engines for an object, word, tenor, colour. The images that appear are shaped by what others have searched for before. The lightness of the absent-minded muscle memory of a billion human thumbs searching for the thing flickering through their mind in the moment, the deep cultural anxiety of that, and the density and gravity of the image search as a paradigmatic POV. Some of the Clouds on Chains materials are from Yahoo and Flickr searches 15 years ago; intended and unintended splinters of algorithmic pathways, fragments of the global movement of information in our recent history.

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November 14th, 2021

Architects design buildings, but it is fair to talk about (and expect) their participation in shaping housing-and-ageing outside of architecture. After all, these are professionals who have never self-excluded from graphic design, branding, copywriting, sculpture, social science, economics and philosophy. Architects also engage in shaping housing-and-ageing beyond design in the same way that every person does – by talking about hopes, fears, differences, assumptions, beliefs. Further, their direct role in developing housing outcomes and narratives is an inescapable participation in reproducing the social and economic norms of society and the communally-created imaginaries of what a ‘good’ life and ‘good’ old age is.

Within design, in their disciplinary lane, architects have all the tools to help make housing more sustainable, healthier, longer-lasting, more usable, more adaptable to changing household needs, and (although I know it is developers not architects who set profit margins and it is The Market that forces the developers’ hand) more affordable. Affordability is not purely a binary calculated by cost of purchase. Long-term affordability is supported locally through housing diversity, where homogeneity limits it.

Architects also have a powerful tool and philosophy of Universal Design. This is the design of places, spaces and products to ensure inclusion, regardless of ability. It is distinct from accessibility standards because inclusion is integrated from the outset. Universal Design is the welcoming address, not the ramp added on the side.

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November 7th, 2021

Growing interest in applications of blockchain technology in city planning has sparked a drum roll of city tokens, city DAOs, decentralised city projects, city white-papers and city dreams. Vitalik Buterin’s blog post Crypto Cities collates some of these. Instead of adding to or reviewing the expanding list of projects, I want to contribute some themes and concepts from urban theory that can help position and frame the possibilities.

Social scientists, economists, geographers, historians, designers (etc) have amassed a weight of concepts for theorising collective understandings of the city. These concepts can anchor the abundant Web 3 project work, and offer pathways for talking about crypto cities ideas in ways that make sense in both blockchain and urban planning language.

Four vectors of city themes that are useful in anchoring crypto cities are:

  • city identity
  • city lifecycle
  • city ownership
  • city governance
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November 4th, 2021

During the vaccination phase of the pandemic someone very close to me fell into a pit of links and mailing lists. I had understood, abstractly, that misinformation and conspiracies breed in the Venn overlap of wellness, isolation and the web, but I hadn’t appreciated the real-life costs and anxieties that are the result. It doesn’t just stay anon.

Whistle-blower Frances Haugen’s patient explanations of algorithmic devilry allege a Facebook business model that puts fractions of percentage points of profit before community safety [1]. Haugen recognises the real-life consequences of misinformation, having been initially motivated to work at Facebook after her close friend was radicalised on the platform.

As much as misinformation is a problem in English speaking communities, Haugen explains, there are other more extreme concerns for human safety. Facebook subsidises the web in places where a free and open internet does not exist, and only a handful of languages have AI safety ability; programming a new language for safety and integrity does not make economic sense in societies with smaller numbers of (usually) less affluent users. The common knowledge that a lot of what’s on the web is untrue is not necessarily known in all communities. The ethnic violence in Myanmar and Ethiopia, fanned by social media groups, is just the beginning.

Haugen describes how Facebook rhetoric promotes a black and white choice: we can either have oversight or we can have privacy. But this is a false choice. It’s not a problem of dangerous content, it’s a problem of the structures and rules / algorithms of the platform.

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October 15th, 2021

Creating new financial and governance systems is a political and social act, not a technocratic solution to an accepted problem, not a technical tool, although that’s where it starts.

Seeing Like a State by James C. Scott (1998) opens with the story of the invention of scientific forestry in 18th Century Prussia and Saxony. This is a model and a metaphor for the simplification and manipulation of the world by powerful institutions with sharply defined interests (such as nation states). In the case of forestry, the state’s tunnel vision is focused on resource extraction, translating the ancient forest into measurements of usable timber yield, and missing the other parts of the forest. Then, reshaping (clearing, ordering, replanting) forests to better suit measurement, administration and extraction of that resource. The ordered rows of single-species trees were, of course, catastrophic for the ecosystem.

Top-down planning maps the world according to myopic short term interests. In Scott’s thesis this is the substrate to the tragic episodes of state development through the 20th Century, which combined the aspiration to the administrative ordering of nature and society, the use of power, and a weakened civil society lacking the capacity to resist.

It’s one of those non-fiction books where the author makes their claim and then delivers a regiment of chaptered illustrations in support. (Whisper: This could have been an email). I read it because it’s on the reading lists of many in the DAO community, and I’ve been doing a DAO course.