Photo courtesy of Julius Colwyn

stories.narratingprocess.show was an instance of Bookchain, a browser-based peer-to-peer collaborative writing app. It asked what kinds of collectivity might emerge from blockchain technology and the forms of value that might be produced through this emergent process. Following Brian Massumi and others’ work at the 3 Ecologies Process Seed Bank, it was concerned with the possibility of using blockchain as the backbone of an affective economy that lead to the accumulation of a “surplus value of life”. Just as capital feeds monitory profit into financial investment, Massumi suggests that we could use blockchain to foster creativity by feeding the intensity of one experience forward into a greater variety of future experiences. Value in this blockchain would be more aligned to potential experience than potential profit. This is one reason stories.narratingprocess.show encourages the sharing of locally lived experience.

There is a counter-narrative. Technically, bookchain was inspired by decentralised technologies including the DAT protocol, IPFS (InterPlanetary File System) and distributed social networks such a Scuttlebutt and Mastodon. Inasmuch as these technologies lack central control, the determining role of what digital media theorist Alexander Galloway has called protocol comes to the fore. Protocols are sets of rules that govern the transmission of information; they structure communication. For Galloway, in the internet itself, protocol both radically distributes the control that permeates bureaucratic information societies and forces it into hierarchies. In Bookchain for instance, traffic between the nodes is distributed by a purpose-built piece of software running on Google's cloud infrastructure. There was a single authority that validated contributed texts: a natural-language processing algorithm that ensured each new contribution contained the last noun-phrase from the previous one. A process of emergent collectivity had therefore to negotiate these constraints, along with the immutable structure of blockchain itself.

Each block in the chain was linked to the previous one using a cryptographic function called a hash, the output of which could be thought of as a signature of a piece of data. Each individual contribution was permanent and determined those that followed. The history was transparently public. It was ultimately the interplay between these protocols and the freedom to share and build on lived experience that gave shape to the collectivity-producing process of stories.narratingprocess.show.

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Photo courtesy of Oscar Cass-Darweish
Also courtesy of Oscar Cass-Darweish